Chapter 3. Allegorical Modulations

Soubtiles couvertures de belles matieres soubz
fictions delitables et morales.
Christine de Pizan, Avision
Better chastity, the invisible flower
that rocks atop the stalks of silence,
the difficult diamond of the holy saints
that filters desires, satiates time,
the marriage of quietude and motion,
solitude sings within its corolla,
every hour is a petal of crystal,
the world strips off its masks,
and at its heart, a transparent shimmer
that we call God, nameless being
who studies himself in the void, faceless
being emerged from himself, sun
of suns, plenitude of presences and names.
Octavio Paz, Piedra de sol (trans. E. Weinberger)
In the previous Chapter, I explored the innovative ways in which the twelfth-century Byzantine novelists manipulated rhetorical conventions, especially the genre of ēthopoiia , and adjusted them to the specific narratological strategies of their fictional discourses. In this Chapter, I examine the use of allegorical modulations in the Komnenian novels—especially in Hysmine and Hysminias and Drosilla and Charikles. The use of allegorical elements in these works, I argue, has been influenced by a rhetorical approach to literature as a double-tongued (amphoteroglōsson) discourse.
In the first part of this Chapter, I explore the Greek tradition of literary allegorical interpretation. My main focus is on the larger literary context of eleventh- and twelfth-century Byzantium that may have conditioned the use of allegorical modulations in the Komnenian novels. Special emphasis is given to the allegorical interpretation of Homer by Michael Psellos (eleventh century) and Ioannes Tzetzes (twelfth century), and of Heliodoros by Philippos the Philosopher (twelfth century). My analysis addresses the following questions: How did these allegorists perceive both their own interpretive method and the texts they allegorized? To what extent can these allegorizations contribute, first, to the reconstruction of a synchronic medieval Greek theoretical discourse on allegory, and, second, to the elucidation of the functions of the allegorical elements of the Komnenian novels? Finally, what, if any, broader conceptual and literary frameworks defined the more or less simultaneous flourishing of allegorical exegesis of secular literature and the genre of the novel in the twelfth century? In the second part of this Chapter, based on the cultural and literary contextual cues provided mainly by eleventh- and twelfth-century medieval Greek allegorists, I examine the function of allegorical modulations in the works of Makrembolites and Eugeneianos.

Allegorical interpretations of secular literature in Greek tradition

From its aesthetic devaluation by the Romantics in the early nineteenth century until its discursive restoration by the (post)modernists in the late twentieth century, allegory has occupied a central position in critical theory. This is not the place to address modern theoretical debates on allegory. What, however, I want to stress is that the Romantic promotion of symbol at the expense of allegory has often heavily marked not only broader critical approaches to literature in the last two centuries but also scholarly explorations of the function of this trope in earlier periods of European literature, notably the Middle Ages. [1] In this respect, allegory has often suffered an aesthetic and critical marginalization comparable to that of rhetoric. And, again as happened with rhetoric, the belated reassessment of allegory in the work of influential (post)modernist theorists has caused an unbalanced inflation of its value as the figure of semantic indeterminacy par excellence. [2]
Although Western European medieval allegory has been the subject of a large number of detailed discussions in the fields of literary theory and medieval studies, [3] medieval Greek allegory remains, by and large, an almost terra incognita that still awaits systematic exploration. [4] And this, despite the fact that allegory or allegorical modes have greatly informed a large part of secular and sacred medieval Greek literature. Drawing on ancient and medieval Greek theories of allegory, my discussion of allegorical modulations in the Komnenian novels focuses not so much on the indeterminacy of textual meaning as on what I view as a quintessentially Byzantine pattern of thought: the double-tonguedness, that is, the potential ambivalence of literary discourse as determined by the double heritage, Christian and pagan, of medieval Greek culture.

Late Pagans and early Christians

An elemental feature of allegorical discourse is obscurity. In what may be the first occurrence of the term ἀλληγορία in Greek literary theory, [5] Demetrios, after describing allegory as “a covering of words,” illustrates the aesthetic and discursive effect of this trope as follows:
What is implied always strikes more terror, since its meaning is open to different interpretations, whereas what is clear and plain is apt to be despised, like men who are stripped of their clothes. This is why the mysteries are revealed in allegories, to inspire the shuddering and awe associated with darkness and night. In fact, allegory is not unlike darkness and night. [6]
Obscurity and discursive “darkness” are underlined by Demetrios as important components of allegory. Worth noting is also the association of this trope with ritual systems of communication—a connection discussed at some length later in this Chapter.
The presupposition of different levels of signification in allegory, already indirectly indicated in Demetrios’ metaphoric reference to this trope, is explicitly addressed in later rhetorical discussions. Pseudo-Herakleitos, the author of Homeric Problems, provides the following established definition based on the etymology of the word: allegory, he says, is the trope that means different things than what it expresses. [7] Similar are the definitions of the term by other rhetoricians. [8] Tiberios connects allegory with metaphor, [9] while Tryphon notes that allegory is usually based on a relationship of likeness between the main and an apparent idea. [10] Allegory’s analogical function is particularly stressed in Latin rhetorical tradition, in which, starting already with Cicero, this trope is often defined as an extended metaphor. [11] The eleventh-century rhetorician Ioannes Sikeliotes offers perhaps the most insightful and terse definition of allegory in the history of Greek rhetoric. As allegory we describe, he says, “that kind of discourse that by means of a certain idea refers enigmatically to a different idea when it is self-sufficient and distinctly preserves its hidden meaning.” [12] In certain cases, Sikeliotes goes on, allegories are continuous and do not reveal their real meaning. [13]
The epics and also poems by other ancient Greek poets such as Alkaios or Kallimachos provide ancient and medieval Greek rhetoricians with examples of allegorical speech, while Christian scholars draw their paradigms from the Bible too [14] Nevertheless, it is the Homeric epics, particularly the Iliad, that are singled out as the dominant exempla of ancient Greek allegorical literature. In their turn, alleged allegorical compositions gave rise to a large corpus of allegorical explications. [15]
Allegorical interpretation had a long history in Greek literary tradition. The origins of this interpretive method may be traced back to the work of the late sixth-century B.C. sophist Theagenes of Rhegion. In the fifth century B.C. the Athenian sophists also seem to have practiced the allegorical interpretation of myths and poetry. [16] However, allegorical exegesis of mythology and poetry reached its acme in late antiquity, especially in Stoic and Neoplatonic circles. The author of Homeric Problems makes it clear that one of the main objectives of allegorical explication is the defense of sanctioned texts against their accusers. His argumentation, not unparalleled in the works of medieval Greek allegorists, as my discussion below will illustrate, is rather circular. Homer, it is assumed, is a great poet; therefore, his inconsistencies or apparent blasphemous references to gods must have been allegorically intended and, consequently, should be received in analogous terms. [17]
A detailed survey of the development of allegorization as a defensive and restorative interpretive response to major examples of ancient Greek literature, especially the Homeric poems, is beyond the scope of the present discussion. Nevertheless, I want to underline the significance of this interpretive strategy especially for Neoplatonic exegesis since Neoplatonism had a great impact on medieval Greek allegorization.
In what constituted the most systematic Neoplatonic exegetical defense of Homeric poetry, Proklos attempted to reconcile Homer with Plato. In Proklos’ threefold system of poetics, Homer is the most significant representative of theological poetry, that is, of the most elevated kind of poetic discourse. [18] The “outlandish, unnatural, and dramatic” themes of poetic figments (τὸ τῶν ποιητικῶν πλασμάτων τραγικὸν καὶ τὸ τερατῶδες καὶ τὸ παρὰ φύσιν), [19] Proklos contends, urge readers to go beyond the surface meaning of poetic discourse and uncover the hidden ideas that the poets have expressed for future generations. [20] In this respect, Homer’s epics are not to be read literally but rather as symbolic encodings of transcendental truth. The story of the Iliad is explicated as an allegorical depiction of the “attempt of the most spiritual souls to defeat the less spiritual forms of life” and return to the place of their origin, and Helen is read as a figural embodiment of the world of ultimate beauty. [21]
In Greek literary tradition the unprecedented flourishing of allegorical interpretation of late antiquity was later emulated only by the works of Psellos and Tzetzes in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, respectively. [22] Although drawing primarily on the conventions of pagan allegorizations, both these writers wrote for an audience whose interpretive sensitivity and expectations had been fundamentally molded by Christian exegetical tradition. Instrumental figures in the formation of this tradition such as Klemes of Alexandria had offered paradigmatic examples of allegorical interpretation of heathen texts and myths. If I place emphasis here on Klemes’ rather than Philon’s or Origenes’ contribution to allegorical exegesis of the Bible, I do so because Klemes offered a more “orthodox” and therefore less controversial—for Byzantine theological standards—exegetical paradigm than that of the Hellenized Jew Philon or the “heretic” Origenes. [23]
Klemes, whose exegetical method is greatly influenced by Stoic philosophy as well as the philosophy of Philon, contends that both the “barbarians and the Greeks had hidden the origins of things, but they have transmitted the truth by means of enigmas and symbols and allegories and metaphors and other similar tropes.” [24] This may be viewed as the theoretical basis of Klemes’ interpretive approach to pagan—Greek and Oriental—traditions. For instance, in his discussion of Egyptian religion, he stresses that the Egyptians used to keep sacred meanings hidden from laymen under the cover of symbolic imagery. Using a topos that we will encounter also in Psellos and Tzetzes, Klemes argues that the Egyptians employed an extensive number of enigmatic signs whose meanings were accessible only to the members of the highest religious and administrative ranks. [25] For instance, he notes, the reason why the Egyptians used to build Sphinxes at the entrances of their temples was that the dual nature of that mythological figure—half human, half beast—signified the enigmatic essence of God. Sphinx inspired feelings similar to those caused by man’s approach to the divine. On the one hand, this symbolic image produced awe and fear, due to its beast-like appearance, and, on the other, love and attraction, because of its human characteristics. [26]
Commenting on the Pythagoreans, Klemes observes that they too employed a highly symbolic diction. Among other cases, he mentions the images of “Persephone’s dogs” and “Kronos’ tear,” which, following the pagan exegetical tradition, he interprets in physical terms as symbols of the planets and the sea, respectively. [27] In his discussions of examples from profane literature, especially drama, he does not hesitate to extract allegorical meanings, which he adjusts to the principles of Christian ethics. For instance, Klemes’ interpretation of a rather obscure passage attributed to Thespis that refers to a sacrificial context [28] is invested with allusions to the New Testament. For Klemes, this fragment has the semantic value of a riddle that describes the development of an individual’s education starting from “the first nutrition of the soul with the milk of the twenty-four letters of the alphabet” [29] and culminating in “the blood of the wine of logos,” through the intermediate stage of the illuminating discourse of catechesis, which leads man to maturity. [30] At another point, a passage from Euripides is allegorically associated with Christological principles. [31]
Clearly, Klemes’ approach to pagan culture is closely connected with his overall allegorical interpretation of the Bible. His metaphorical distinction between the “body” and the “intellect” of the Scripture, [32] a polarization that can be traced back to Philon’s and Origenes’ exegetical theory, [33] is not without significance for the formulation of his reading of ancient Greek literature. Klemes is aware of the enigmatic obscurity of his own discourse too, which he explains in terms that recall his comments on the privileged Egyptians’ elitist attitude toward their symbolically formulated cosmological principles. [34]

Medieval Greek allegorical exegesis: the eleventh and twelfth centuries and beyond

Michael Psellos: interpretation and rhetoric

Turning to a period closer to the historical and cultural context of the Komnenian novels, we see that almost nine centuries after Klemes, in the eleventh century, Psellos developed a comparable approach to the allegorization of ancient Greek texts and myths based on a similar combination of pagan and Christian elements. Psellos composed eight short allegorical treatises on ancient Greek themes. Half of these deal with specific Homeric passages; the rest address general mythological subjects. [35] It has been persuasively argued that these works contain a considerable amount of Neoplatonic and Stoic elements. [36]
Not unlike Klemes’ approach, Psellos’ allegorical work is based on a distinction between two levels of reading. The first level corresponds to the superficial apparent meaning of the text that is subjected to allegorization. The second semantic level contains the more philosophical significance that is attributed to the text by the interpreter himself. Psellos’ general attitude toward the ancient texts he allegorizes differs considerably from the practice of late antiquity allegorists. For the latter, allegorization meant a mere elucidation of the author’s assumed original intention. [37] By contrast, Psellos exhibits a clear awareness of the fact that, more often than not, the double meaning of the texts he deciphers is the result of his own interpretive dexterity rather than the ancient author’s unrecoverable original intention. He views allegorical interpretation as an art that is closely connected to the art of rhetoric, albeit also drawing on philosophy. [38]
In his interpretation of the mythical figure of the Sphinx, Psellos, employing a conventional metaphoric image, compares the hidden meaning of the myth with the aduta of the Eleusinian mysteries. At first sight, he seems to discern two semantic levels of the original myth: the apparent and the riddling (φαινόμενον and αἰνισσόμενον). [39] The hidden meaning refers to mystical philosophical ideas (τὸ κεκρυμμένον φιλοσοφίαν ἔχον ἀπόρρητον). Psellos, however, places emphasis not so much on the original meaning of the object of his analysis as on his own function as the interpreting subject. His remark that it was his students who invited him to undertake the allegorization of the mythical figure of the Sphinx indicates that his role here should be viewed in terms of a didactic initiation of his students into the art of rhetoric rather than into the alleged mysteries of the myth under discussion. This is made even clearer by his observation that he would have hesitated to attempt an interpretation of the myth if the ancient rites had not been abolished and replaced by the divine dogmas of Christianity. Now the veils of the mysteries have been drawn open, he says, and, as a result, access into the aduton of the true allegorical meanings has been facilitated. [40] The interpretive freedom that Psellos allows himself is evident at the very end of his treatise, where he tries to detect some Pythagorean elements in the myth. If the myth really intended to convey such a meaning, this is beyond his own knowledge, Psellos admits. What he knows, nevertheless, is that even if his Pythagorean interpretation constitutes a redundant, arbitrary addition to his overall allegorization, it is at least an elevated philosophical explication. [41]
Other times, and especially when he produces parallels between the ancient myths and Christian dogmas, Psellos admits even more explicitly that his allegorical practice is nothing but a rhetorical game. In these cases, he describes his interpretive method as a creative transformation of a false discourse (i.e. the ancient myth) into a true one, that is, into its allegorical Christian equivalent. This exegetical process is sometimes illustrated by means of a metaphor with Platonic echoes: the ancient myth is compared to salty water that must undergo the process of an interpretive “desalination” in order to become drinkable. [42] In his allegorization of the scene of the gods’ assembly from the Iliad 4.1f, Psellos underlines that one of the most important characteristics of verbal art, the “rhetorical” (ῥητορικόν) and “artful” (τεχνικόν), is the transformation of infertile subject matters into fertile generators of discourse. On the basis of this principle, he undertakes to adjust the Homeric text to the Christian doctrines. He is very confident of succeeding in this enterprise, because, as he says, the omnipotent rhetorical discourse (τεχνικὸς λόγος) can provide him with all the arguments needed for the transformation of the false mythical topic into a true discourse:
ἀλλ’ ὅ γε τεχνικὸς λόγος δύναιτ’ ἂν ὁπόσα καὶ βούλοιτο. διὰ ταῦτα οὐδ’ ἂν ἡμεῖς ἀπορήσαιμεν λόγων τὸ τῆς ποιήσεως μυθῶδες μετατιθέντων καὶ ἀλληγορούντων τὸ πεπλασμένον εἰς τὴν ἀλήθειαν. [43]
But rhetorical discourse would be able to do whatever it wishes; and for this reason I would not be short of words that could transform the mythical content of poetry and transfer the fabricated stories to their true meaning through allegorical exegesis.
The rhetorical character of his interpretation is also evident in his allegorization of the Homeric description of the cave of the Nymphs. After proposing a detailed interpretation of the scene, which reproduces Porphyrios’ allegorization of the same topic almost verbatim, [44] Psellos demonstrates once more the creative potential of his rhetorical allegorical practice. This time, he says, he refuses to produce a Christianized reading of the ancient text, thus leaving it exposed to “the shame of its original mendacity.” [45]
Psellos’ attitude to exegetical method and the nature of his subject matter is different when he deals with biblical themes. In his Brief Allegorical Exegesis of the Forty-ninth Psalm (᾿Εξήγησις σύντομος κατὰ ἀλληγορίαν τοῦ νθ´ ψαλμοῦ), for example, the biblical text is characterized as most susceptible to anagogical interpretation (ποριστικώτατος εἰς τοὺς ἀναγωγικοὺς τρόπους). This feature differentiates this particular text and all the other works of the same category from the ancient Greek examples that he allegorizes. Sanctioned Christian texts are presented as originally consisting of two levels of meaning. Sometimes the first of these semantic layers is characterized as historical, the second as allegorical. Psellos does not challenge, therefore, the accuracy and historical validity of biblical texts. He occasionally combines the established Christian approach to the Bible with allegorical practices inherited primarily from the ancient Greek tradition. For instance, his interpretation of a passage from the Proverbs follows three directions of investigation: ethical, physical, and theological. [46] The affinities of the first two approaches with Greek literary allegorization are self-evident, while the last one seems to be closer to the Christian tradition of biblical exegesis. [47]

Ioannes Tzetzes: metaichmioi logoi (liminal discourses) and allegorical interpretation

The allegorical interpretation of Homeric texts, which was resuscitated after a long period of silence in the eleventh century and practiced notably by Psellos, was also adopted, and further developed, by Ioannes Tzetzes about half a century later. The flourishing of allegorical philological interpretation in the twelfth century is accompanied by a wider intense interest in the Homeric texts. [48] By contrast to Psellos, however, Tzetzes offers a systematic description of his methodology and a coherent theory of allegory. In his Chronike Biblos, Tzetzes argues that written discourse can be divided into three categories: false, true, and liminal or in-between. The first category, the discourse that does not agree with reality but is the result of literary fabrication, is subject to allegorization. As for the second category, Tzetzes continues, only a deranged person would attempt to allegorize a true story. [49] The discourse that is located between the first two categories, the “between-and-betwixt logos” (metaxu kai metaicmios logos), [50] on the one hand contains elements that correspond to reality, and, on the other, it expresses allegorically ideas that surpass nature. [51] The allegorical character of the discourse of the first category is attributed to the wish of its composers to hide it from “profane ears” (κρύπτοντες αὐτοὺς ἐκ βεβήλων ὠτίων). [52] According to Tzetzes, allegory is one of the four characteristics of epic poetry, the other four being the epic meter, the narration of an old story, and the elevated diction. [53] In other words, Tzetzes seems to recognize two levels of meaning in the composition of the original poetic texts that he analyzes. [54]
Tzetzes discerns three main methods of allegorical interpretation: the physical (στοιχειακῶς), the psychological or ethical (ψυχικῶς), and the pragmatic (πρακτικῶς). The first two methods, he adds, are appropriate to philosophy, whereas the last one is practiced rather by rhetoricians. [55] The myth of Kronos, for instance, may be interpreted in all these three ways. Pragmatically (πρακτικῶς), Kronos should be understood as a symbol of an old king who killed his children; [56] physically (στοιχειακῶς), he must be seen as an allegorical representation of the cosmic element of darkness (σκότος); and psychologically (ψυχικῶς), he is understood as a symbol of “ignorance and the darkness of mind.” [57]
Unlike Psellos, Tzetzes does not approve of the christianization of ancient myths. On the contrary, he argues that it is an entirely invalid method and criticizes precisely Psellos for his adherence to it. [58] However, one wonders how Tzetzes could justify the validity of his own methodology, particularly as he holds each one of the three methods of allegorization equally acceptable. The interchangeability of these methods attests to a self-indulgent rhetorical amphoteroglōssia rather than to a systematic scholarly approach to the Homeric poetry. As a matter of fact, Tzetzes occasionally projects the indefinability of his own interpretive discourse on Homer’s alleged intentional playful composition. Homer, he contends, often plays in his poems and, as a result, may mislead his readers. [59] In Tzetzes’ view, Homer’s alleged intentional ambiguity renders his poetry an exemplary model of rhetorical discourse. [60]
Tzetzes applies a similar method also in his commentary on Lykophron’s Alexandra, a work that enjoyed particular popularity in Byzantium. Tzetzes’ fascination with the obscure style of this poem is already indicated by his “etymological” explication of the author’s name. Lykophron was given this name, Tzetzes explains, because he spoke in enigmatic and cunning fashion exactly like the lukoi (wolves). At another point in his commentary and in a self-aggrandizing manner not untypical of him, Tzetzes boasts that he knows how to allegorize poetry better than Kornoutos, Palaiphatos, Domnenos, Kephalion, or Pseudo-Herakleitos. All those old allegorists, he contends, offer either inapplicable or few interpretations, whereas Tzetzes himself is capable of applying the allegorical method adequately. He also knows where to withhold this method so that he does not produce forced interpretations, which may obscure rather than clarify the meaning of the stories that he construes. [61]

Eustathios of Thessalonike

The tradition of the allegorical exegesis of ancient Greek literature is continued in the twelfth century with the work of Eustathios of Thessalonike. In his commentaries on Homer, Eustathios speaks of all the three types of allegorization that, as noted above, Tzetzes, following the ancients, discusses in some detail in his work. “The absurdity of the discourse [of Homeric poetry],” Eustathios observes, “was remedied by means of either anagogical or historical allegory.” Allegorical interpretation, he says, ascribes to ancient gods the role of specific natural forces and elements. Apollo, for instance, is the symbol of the sun and Artemis of the moon. [62] Their mother Leto symbolizes night, from which the sun (Apollo) is born. [63] Hera stands for ether, [64] Athena, who allegorically oversees all the artifacts (similar to the manner in which Poseidon governs navigation and Ares warfare), [65] represents reason too. [66]
Eustathios is aware of the interpretive hazards that an uncritical use of this method may entail. At the beginning of his commentary on the Iliad, he notes disapprovingly that a number of interpreters of Homeric poetry used to allegorize not only mythological themes but also historical truths. [67] Others, though, Eustathios continues, took a totally opposite direction: they objected to allegorization not only of historical events, an objection that Eustathios finds commendable, but also of mythical stories. He, on the other hand, follows a middle way and employs allegorization whenever appropriate. Eustathios applies the same method to his analysis of Pindaric poetry. Pindar, he contends, is an allegorical poet par excellence. His poetry may be interpreted, Eustathios suggests, in terms both of rhetorical allegory, “which was known to Hermogenes and the interpreters of Homer,” and of that kind of allegory that was “the subject of those who dealt with mythology.” [68]

Ioannes Galenos: Christianizing the epics

To round out this sketch of the basic discursive parameters of the allegorical exegesis of pagan poetry in twelfth-century Byzantium, let us dwell a bit on an intriguing example of interpretive Christianization of epic poetry—the rather neglected allegorizations of Ioannes Galenos. Not unlike the allegorizations of Psellos or, as we shall see in the following pages, Philippos the Philosopher, Galenos’ treatise on Hesiod has educational purposes. His commentary should be read as an instructional introduction not only into Hesiodic poetry but also into the method of allegorical interpretation in general: Galenos compares this method to the philosophical teachings of Plotinos and Sokrates. Like those pagan philosophers, Galenos argues, the practitioner of allegorical interpretation instructs his students how to proceed from the superficial to the profound meaning of the texts. The aim of allegorical exegesis, Galenos stresses, is to complement the apparent, pleasant, but false content of a text with its true significance. To this effect, the interpreter is occasionally allowed to “introduce the myth into our own [i.e. Christian] rightful court.” [69]
This method, vehemently criticized by Tzetzes, recalls Psellos’ analogous attempts at an interpretive Christianization of ancient Greek myths. For instance, the story of Prometheus, Galenos claims, is to be understood in Christian terms as a prefiguration of Christ’s descent to the earth and man’s salvation. Commenting on Theogony 538, Galenos contends that Prometheus stands for Adam, the first man, who was expelled from Paradise and cursed to suffer. The eagle that was eating Prometheus’ liver is a symbol of man’s misfortunes, while Herakles represents Christ himself who came down to the earth to save humanity. [70] Later in his discussion, Galenos employs another metaphor to describe the transformative power of allegorization. The original pagan text or myth is compared to a “wild olive tree” that needs to be domesticated by means of the transformative force of allegorical interpretation. [71] For example, in addition to a physical explication of the myth of the Titans, Galenos offers a theological one: the defeat of the Titans, he says, symbolizes the defeat of evil by Christ and the twelve Apostles. Galenos concludes his discussion of Theogony with an interesting qualification. Lest someone accuses him of composing a frivolous treatise, he hastens to admit that aspects of the Hesiodic myths are to be understood in historical terms too. Clearly, Galenos adheres to the traditional tripartite categorization of allegorical interpretation of ancient Greek texts as this had been established already in late antiquity and further adopted and developed especially by Ioannes Tzetzes in the twelfth century.
In his commentary on the Homeric scene of the gods’ assembly, [72] Galenos exploits our familiar image of the wild versus the domesticated olive tree, but with an interesting variation. Here, this figure is employed in a broader metaphoric context where the established figurative connection of appearance with pleasant and beautifying effects seems to have been reversed: Galenos compares pagan myths to ugly faces and the allegorical restoration of the “truth” to legitimate embellishment. [73] This reversal of stereotypical symbolic associations employed in allegorical contexts where added ornamentation (kosmos) was normally connected with fallacious representations rather than with true discourse betrays, I argue, Galenos’ awareness of the possible arbitrariness of his own method.
At the end of his short treatise, Galenos returns to more conventional analogies, which are also employed in other Byzantine allegorical interpretations of fictional narratives. He compares the Homeric myth to a shell and a thorn from which he picks a pearl and a rose, respectively. [74] From the very beginning, the interpreter’s ability—in this case Galenos’ own power—to extract such meanings from the original texts is clearly attributed to the potential of artistic discourse, that is, of rhetoric to collect and develop topics even from the basest stories. [75] It is by such means, Galenos contends, that the earthly elements of a myth are “transubstantiated” into more divine ideas. [76]
In this work, too, Galenos follows a tripartite interpretive schema, the difference being that here the historical method is not taken into account. [77] Dominant throughout his allegorization is the theological method. Zeus symbolizes the Christian God, and the other Olympians the orders of angels that surround God. The nectar that Hebe serves to the pagan gods is construed both physically and theologically. According to Galenos it refers both to the structure and creation of the universe—the sphere of the sky and the four fundamental elements of the cosmos, that is, fire, air, water, and earth—and to the “sweet divine logos.” [78]

Allegorization of ancient and medieval Greek fictional narratives

Psellos’ rhetorical allegorization, Tzetzes’ more systematic theory of written discourse and the conditions of its allegorical exegesis, and Galenos’ theological interpretive method provide significant material for the reconstruction of the broader cultural and literary context in which one may view the composition of the important allegorical interpretation (ἑρμήνευμα) of Heliodoros’ Aithiopika by Philippos the Philosopher in the twelfth century. [79] Being the only systematic allegorical interpretation of a nonepic profane ancient text preserved from this period (twelfth century), [80] Philippos’ interpretation points to the significance of the genre of the novel in his age. At the same time, it exemplifies the attempt on the part of a Christian reader of that era to approach this ancient genre from a mystical point of view. The combination of these two traditions—the primary secular literary tradition and the secondary exegetical one—in Philippos’ reading of Heliodoros may be compared to the coexistence of pagan elements and Christian allusions in Hysmine and Hysminias and Drosilla and Charikles. In this respect, Phillipos’ treatise may also provide helpful contextual cues to illustrate the conditions of a possible allegorical reading of these Komnenian novels by their learned contemporary audience.
The approach of Philippos to Heliodoros’ novel resembles Psellos’ allegorizations of ancient Greek themes both methodologically and formally. Philippos tries to imitate the frame of Platonic dialogues and presents his analysis as a response to the request of some young admirers of Heliodoros, like Psellos, who also sometimes states that his allegorical interpretations are solicited by his students. [81] The whole scene suggests an educational relation between Philippos, who is portrayed as an older instructor, and his young students. His preoccupation with Heliodoros’ erotic narrative is described in terms that, again, recall Psellos. This is a play (ἄθυρμα), Philippos says, which he did not hesitate to undertake since, as the old saying goes, even old men play, but in a decent way. [82] His allegorical analysis is presented, therefore, as a “decent” literary “game.”
Nevertheless, what follows bespeaks an approach to the allegorization of the novel that differs from Psellos’ interpretive response to ancient Greek literature. For Philippos, allegorical exegesis is the best way to decipher the true meaning of the novel indeed. His overall attitude to this kind of allegorical interpretation is more sympathetic than Psellos’ approach since he clearly tries to defend Charikleia, as Heliodoros’ novel was otherwise known in Byzantium, against “her” accusers. Whereas Psellos opted for a rhetorical defense of the same novel, Philippos chose the solution of its mystical allegorization—a method that he never seems to undermine. [83]
Drawing largely from Neoplatonism, Philippos’ interpretation offers an elevated reading of Heliodoros’ novel. Following a topos well established in the long Greek exegetical tradition, he points out from the very beginning that the reception of this text depends on the readers’ moral predispositions. He illustrates the novel’s ability to elicit different responses from different readers by employing the metaphor of Kirke’s magical potion. In this manner, Philippos demonstrates the double semantic structure of the novel, which combines an erotic story with a more elevated meaning or, in Philippos’ own words, the “water” of the romantic story with the “wine” of elevated contemplation (θεωρία). [84] Philippos describes his approach to the supposed mystical content of the novel in a highly suggestive way reminiscent of the combination of sensual and mystical elements in the Song of Songs. [85] The disclosure of the deepest meaning of the novel is metaphorically described as a suggestive undressing of Charikleia. [86] One recalls here St Augustine’s emphasis on the pleasure ensuing from allegorical explication, [87] which, to my mind, bespeaks an aesthetic attitude comparable to that of Aristotle’s introductory observations in his Poetics [88] but has also most wittily, and rather irreverently, been compared with “the satisfactions of watching a striptease!” [89]
Heliodoros’ novel, Philippos argues, is very instructive—a teacher of moral philosophy. It is constructed on the basis of a contrast between good and bad people. The former represent the cardinal virtues, that is, prudence (phronēsis), temperance (sōphrosunē), justice (dikaiosunē), and fortitude (andreia); the latter are finally defeated, thus providing an important moral lesson to those who behave in a similar way. Mystical etymological and numerological interpretations are crucial in Philippos’ allegorization. Kalasiris, for instance, symbolizes the initiator of the soul into the mysteries of theology, because, as his name reveals, he is the person “who draws [the heroes of the novel] toward the good” (πρὸς τὰ καλὰ σύρων). Furthermore, the letters of Charikleia’s name add up to the “mystical and virgin and sacred” number seven hundred seventy-seven. [90]
A later text, the Protheōria to the Aithiopika by Ioannes Eugenikos (fifteenth century), reveals a similar attitude toward this novel. After pointing to the rhetorical quality of the work, Eugenikos stresses its mystical and moral content, putting special emphasis on the importance of the four cardinal virtues for the development of the story. In this novel, he contends, all those elements are glorified that constitute and ornament the “logical soul,” that is, “the stability and grandeur of fortitude, the uprightness of justice, the dignity and spirituality of temperance, the perfection of prudence.” [91] Such a reading is open to those who do not center their attention on the superficial content of the story but proceed to the depth of its meaning. According to Eugenikos, this approach to the text brings to the fore the “sacred chorus of the catholic virtues and their marvelous order and unity and consonance and the ensuing mystical delectation and emanation” that are hidden under the surface of an immodest and profane story. [92]
Like Philippos the Philosopher and others before him, such as Gregorios of Nyssa or Origenes, Eugenikos connects the validity of literary exegesis with the intention primarily of the readers. If one is not misled by base passions, one is bound to uncover the true meaning of the work he reads. In order to corroborate his arguments, Eugenikos draws a parallel between Heliodoros’ novel and the Song of Songs. If one condemns Aithiopika for moral reasons, Eugenikos argues in a bold manner, one should criticize Solomon’s sanctioned Song as well since its subject matter does not differ considerably from that of the ancient novel.
Eugenikos’ argumentation draws on established theoretical discourses about the legitimacy and necessity of a mystical reading of the Song. To give an example, Origenes, in a manner recalling Pseudo-Herakleitos’ justification of the allegorical exegesis of the Homeric poems, had already declared that, unless we accept that the Song has a profound meaning, we must hold it a blasphemous tale: “If these words are not to be spiritually understood, are they not mere tales? If they contain no hidden mystery, are they not unworthy of God?” [93] Eugenikos’ insistence on the comparison between the Aithiopika and the venerated Song of Songs, a comparison implicit also in Philippos’ allegorization, indicates the importance of this biblical text and its mystical exegetical tradition as a possible interpretive model for the reading of the ancient Greek fictional narratives. [94]
A fascinating illustration of the different directions that Byzantine allegorization of ancient Greek fiction could take is provided by the Allegory (᾿Αλληγορία) of Lucian’s Loukios by Alexios Makrembolites (fourteenth century). In his analysis, Alexios Makrembolites makes a distinction between the story of the text (hupothesis) and its meaning (nous). [95] According to Alexios Makrembolites, the Lucianic story, which he describes with the marked term drama, [96] cannot be taken at face value since it narrates something that is impossible: the transformation of a human being into an ass. Here we discern the same approach to allegory that we encountered in Teztzes. For Alexios Makrembolites as for Tzeztes, fictionality and pragmatic impossibility are safe discursive criteria for determining the allegorical potential of a text. In this vein, Makrembolites argues that Lucian wished to convey a more profound meaning through his fabricated story. He wanted to depict the adventures of the mystical love of the soul (erōs psuchēs) that aspires to a virtuous life and to its ultimate ascendance to heaven. In his way toward this destination the hero of the work enters the house of Strategos, the Emperor of the passions, where the transformation of the hero takes place: he changes appearance and loses his reason. [97] But in the end, and after many adventures, he reaches his goal and follows in Christ’s steps. [98]
Alexios Makrembolites’ interpretation is an intriguing example of Byzantine allegorization of ancient Greek fictional narratives. Loukios, an almost pornographic text—at least for the moral standards of the highly conservative Christian Byzantine society—is invested with a Christian meaning that transfers it from its “base” status to an elevated level. Alexios Makrembolites describes the process of his allegorical reading in a way reminiscent of Psellos’ presentation of his allegorizations of ancient Greek texts: “I have gathered such a meaning, and nobody will blame me if I have picked roses from the thorns or skillfully extracted drinkable water from the salty sea,” [99] Alexios Makrembolites admits, thus underlining both his self-awareness as the interpreting subject and his positive disposition toward the text that he analyzes. [100]
The Byzantines did not confine their allegorizing zeal only to the fictional works of their ancient predecessors. A thirty-six line poem in iambic meter from the twelfth century offers a moralistic interpretation of Stephanites and Ichnelates, the Greek translation of Kalilah va Dimnahin produced by Symeon Seth in the late eleventh century. This allegorical interpretation is preserved in a thirteenth-century manuscript under the name of a certain Georgios Kerameus, who may be no other than Philagathos Kerameus, as Philippos the Philosopher, the author of the allegorical “defense” of the Aithiopika, was alternatively known. [101] It seems more likely, though, that this poem was composed not by Philagathos himself but rather by an author belonging to Philagathos’ intellectual circle. [102]
The author of this brief exegesis, which is addressed to a member of the aristocratic family of the Palaiologoi, proposes a moralizing reading of Stephanites and Ichnelates. The text is metaphorically described as “a calyx protecting a rose,” “a sea-shell bearing a pearl,” “a leather purse full with gold,” or “a wooden box containing precious stones.” This imagery, constructed as it is around the metaphoric antithesis between humble container and valuable content, between the obvious outside and the covered inside, recalls the distinction between apparent form and profound meaning that is conventionally employed in medieval Greek allegorizations.
A more extended composition by Manuel Philes (161 iambic verses; fourteenth century) deals with the alleged mystical meaning of a romance, which has been convincingly identified with Kallimachos and Chrysorhoe. [103] Behind the apparent erotic story of the romance, Philes finds a more elevated content (nous):
σὺ δὲ σκόπει, βέλτιστε, τὸν νοῦν τῶν λόγων
καὶ σύνες εὐθὺς τοῦ σκοποῦ τῶν πραγμάτων·
πρὸς γὰρ τὰ καλὰ προτροπήν σοι δεικνύει,
κἂν ἐμφάσεις ἔρωτος ἡ βίβλος φέρῃ. [104]
But you, my dear friend, should pay attention to the meaning of the words
and straightly comprehend the aim of the [narrated] things;
for this book urges you toward what is good,
albeit containing a romantic narrative.
The father in the romance stands for God; the beloved is the hero’s soul; the ogre who is killed by the protagonist is a symbol of Satan.
It is true that the preserved text of Kallimachos and Chrysorhoe, if this was indeed the romance that Philes allegorized, does not justify such a reading, at least if viewed from the perspective of a modern reader. This was the case of Lucians’ Loukios as well. More important than the content of the romance of Kallimachos as it appears to us today is the seriousness with which Philes undertook its allegorical explication. We cannot be sure whether this interpretation was an arbitrary twist of the original story reflecting only Philes’ own whimsical approach to it, or if it was shared by other readers of the text as well. The latter does not appear to be a weak possibility. Philes’ encomiastic references to the author of the text, who belonged to the highest Byzantine aristocracy, [105] suggest that at least, even if not fully endorsed, this allegorization must not have been received with surprise by members of such circles.
My analysis of the allegorical interpretations of both ancient Greek literature—especially Homer and the novels—and of Byzantine fictional narratives by medieval Greek intellectuals has shown that Byzantine men of letters often approached fictional narratives as literary compositions consisting of two semantic levels. [106] The first level coincides with the apparent narrated story, which, in its turn, was supposed or made to cover a second layer of more profound meaning.
Unfortunately, we have no evidence to suggest that the Komnenian novels gave rise to the composition of specific allegorical interpretations. Nevertheless, we have the theory of written discourse proposed by Tzetzes that may allow us to categorize the Komnenian novels in his third category of “transitional and liminal discourse” (metaxu kai metaichmios logos), that is, a category of texts potentially subject to allegorical interpretation. Tzetzes’ concept of metaxu kai metaichmios logos offers, I suggest, an appropriate theoretical framework for a synchronic approach to the Komnenian novels: on the one hand, these fictions narrate a story that more or less adheres to the conditions of pragmatic normalcy, but, on the other, they undermine the realistic dimensions of their narrative by situating it in a distant fictitious context governed by pagan divinities. This setting stands in sharp contrast to the Christian background of the authors and audience of the Komnenian novels. Such a contrast is conducive to the amphoteroglōssia of these texts and, according at least to Tzetzes’ theoretical approach to written discourse, may also invest them with a potential allegorical meaning.
In addition to this synchronic theoretical framework, manuscript tradition indicates a tendency toward an allegorical or at least a moralistic approach to the Komnenian novel, specifically to Eumathios Makrembolites’ Hysmine and Hysminias. In Mediceus Laurentianus Acquisti e Doni 341, [107] an interesting annotation appears following the title of this novel:
ποίημα κυροῦ Γεωργίου [sic] πρωτονωβελλισίμου τοῦ Μακρεμβολίτου, τῶν κατ’ ᾿Ισμίνην καὶ ᾿Ισμηνίαν [sic]· ἔστι δὲ δύσλυτον καὶ δυσνόητον πρὸς μὴ εἰδότας καὶ πόρρω τῆς ἐκκλησίας. [108]
Ismine and Isminias, a composition of the protonōbelissimos Georgios Makrembolites; it is insoluble and difficult to be understood by those who are ignorant and far from the Church.
To the best of my knowledge, this piece of information has so far passed unnoticed. Its value, though, as an indication of a possible allegorical approach to Makrembolites’ work on the part of at least some of his medieval Greek readers should not be understated. The words employed in this passage suggest a reading of the novel as an enigmatic narrative that calls for a moralistic approach. [109] The true meaning of the novel, it is suggested, is accessible only to “those who know and are close to the Church.” [110] Apparently such an observation presupposes two semantic levels of the novel and recalls the fundamental theoretical principles of the medieval Greek allegorizations discussed above.
A comparable connection between allegorical exegesis and the composition of romances has been observed in Western medieval Europe. In his insightful exploration of the rise of the genre of romance in twelfth-century Western Europe, Vinaver argues for a “common intellectual origin of the interpretative nature of romance on the one hand and of the exegetic tradition on the other.” [111] However, his discussion, which centers on the explication of biblical, not pagan, texts gives emphasis not so much to the approach of literature as a discourse of a potentially double-layered semantic structure as, rather, to the composition of romance as a coherent discursive sequence. His focus is not on potential narrative ambiguity but on narrative clarity.
In contrast, I prefer to view allegorization as an interpretive process that, as my discussion has shown, validates rather than undermines discursive double-tonguedness by exposing it as a pivotal narrative and interpretive strategy in the case of sanctioned texts from the biblical as well as the pagan literary tradition. [112] A correlation may be drawn between the efflorescence of allegorical interpretation of secular literature and the rediscovery of the genre of the novel in Komnenian Byzantium to the extent that both these highlights of twelfth-century medieval Greek intellectual life constituted attempts to regain or appropriate a venerated literary past. Viewed from this perspective, allegorical exegesis and the novel can be interpreted as liminal or rather transitional discursive phenomena. “Transitional” is to be understood here not only in terms of Tzetzes’ association of this concept with allegory but also, as indicated above, in the sense of cultural and literary bridging between classical antiquity and medieval Greek Christianity. [113]

The narrative as riddle: the poetics of Hysmine and Hysminias

If Heidegger’s generalizing claim that all art may be viewed in terms of allegorical composition has some theoretical value—and I believe that it does, although his assertion is based on a rather forced “ab-use” of the term and concept of allegory—then narratives like Hysmine and Hysminias that draw extensively on traditional rhetorical modes of obscurity (emphasis) may be charged with additional allegorical energy. [114] Makrembolites is the only Komnenian novelist who employs the rhetorical effect of riddle/allegory in the construction of his novel in a systematic and consistent way. [115]
I discern two basic levels on which this effect functions. On the first level, it is connected with the explication of a number of painted personifications. I call this “the micronarrative level.” The dynamics of the idea of riddle/allegory is transferred from the first level to the second one, thus investing the whole novel with subtle allegorical dimensions. I call this “the macronarrative level.” Makrembolites combines, therefore, the two aspects of literary allegorical tradition—allegorical interpretation (Allegoresis) and allegorical composition—in an intricate way that is further developed by his use of pictorial allegory, that is, personifications of abstract ideas.
The complexity of Makrembolites’ allusions to a great corpus of profane and religious texts, on the one hand, [116] and to its broader contemporary Byzantine cultural context, on the other, renders any attempt at a single allegorical interpretation of his whole novel rather precarious. Caution in the exploration of the allegorical dimensions of Makrembolites’ novel is also suggested by its highly and explicitly rhetorical aspects, which enhance the elusiveness of its allusions. [117] My aim is, therefore, to explore those dominant allegorical textual and contextual cues in the novel that, in my opinion, may have directed the original audience’s response to it. This, however, does not mean that my analysis ignores the possibility of the coexistence of other secondary allegorical modulations in this novel. [118] In this respect, my analysis will focus on the allusions of the novel to Neoplatonism and especially to Proklan philosophy. In my view, these allusions, which have never been systematically and contextually studied before, play a pivotal role in the structure of the novel as a whole. This will be the subject of the last part of this section; first, I explore the functions of the allegorical dimensions of personification in the novel.

Riddle and obscurity: rhetoric and cosmology

In Greek rhetoric, riddle was closely related to allegory. Philodemos and Kokondrios, for instance, considered it a species of allegory, [119] whereas other rhetoricians such as Tryphon, Demetrios, or an anonymous author of the second century AD tried to distinguish the two tropes in a more systematic way without, however, understating their close affinity. The main criterion of these rhetoricians is excessive obscurity, which they associate with riddle rather than allegory. The latter is occasionally accorded a rather ethical function, the former an aesthetic one. [120] Tryphon offers the most extensive discussion of enigma. He discerns six types of this trope: riddles by similarity, by opposition, by contingent attribute, by established report, by homonym, and by metaphoric speech. [121] Enigmatic speech, like allegory, contributes to the rhetorical effect of emphasis, which Hermogenes considers a mode pertinent to the Idea of Dignity (semnotēs). Obscurity is an important constituent of emphasis, whose character is illustrated by Hermogenes in a way reminiscent of the terminology of profane and religious allegorical exegetical tradition. To connote something through emphasis “in a mystical and ritual manner,” he says, is a characteristic of the Idea of Dignity. [122] Later, in the ninth century, the Patriarch Photios employed Hermogenes’ pagan terminology to describe the mystical effect of Paul’s Christian use of emphasis. [123] Other rhetoricians, too, refer to emphasis in terms that indicate its close affinity with allegorical speech. Tryphon, for instance, defines emphasis as the discourse that augments the signified through the use of allusion. [124] Similarly, the third-century AD rhetorician Tiberios observes that emphasis is that mode which does not express something directly but alludes to it through other words. [125]
In the tenth century, Arethas discussed the positive aspects of obscure style in his treatise To Those Who Have Accused Us of Obscurity. In a remarkably self-referential manner, Arethas explains that in his compositions he follows established rhetorical principles. Obscurity, he adds, is not always an indication of bad style; on the contrary, as is evidenced from respected models of ancient Greek and Christian literature, it often contributes to the rhetorical effect of Dignity. [126]
One century later, Psellos, too, had to defend himself against a similar criticism. In a letter addressed to a reader who had accused him of excessive obscurity, he employs a series of topoi drawn from established exegetical tradition to illustrate how this rhetorical mode serves his elevated philosophical ideas that are not meant to be accessible to the masses. [127] In the same century, Ioannes Sikeliotes pointed to the close interrelationship between allegory and emphasis by observing that the former is a species of the latter. [128] And an anonymous rhetorician notes explicitly that “allegorical modes, when they are continuous, dignify the discourse.” [129] It is, I argue, in comparable terms of sustained enigmatic discourse that Makrembolites constructs a highly “dignified” narrative—in the rhetorical sense, I repeat, that “Dignity” is employed by Hermogenes.
The composition of riddles was popular in the Greek Middle Ages. Makrembolites himself has been credited with a collection of riddles, but his authorship is not uncontested. [130] However, a clarification may be needed here. Although I view Hysmine and Hysminias as a novel that by and large has been constructed as an extensive riddle, I do not believe that only one single “solution” can be inferred from Makrembolites’ narrative. Hysmine and Hysminias, not unlike the Aithiopika, for instance, or Loukios or Ass, would elicit different responses from different readers, as the traditional exegetical topos has it. My reading of Makrembolites does not endorse the method of monolithic, albeit often insightful, semantic equalization that Kerenyi and Merkelbach employed in their approaches to the ancient Greek novel. [131] “Sustained enigmatic discourse” is not meant here in the sense of a continuous extended metaphor that articulates a single allegorical meaning but, rather, in the sense of continuous or repeated enigmatic clues that point to a discursive play among parallel, coexisting threads of signification and interpretation. [132]
The importance of enigmatic discourse and emphasis for Byzantine rhetoric should not be viewed only in terms of literary style but in the broader context of medieval Greek cosmology and aesthetics. By and large, for the medieval Greeks, not unlike their contemporary Western Europeans, the universe was structured in a series of levels interconnected through progressive homological correlations. It was by means of an allegorical view of the whole world that the Byzantines conceptualized and interpreted these semantic homologies and constructed their cosmos. “Cosmos” should be understood here in its original triple meaning of universe, order, and beauty. Deciphering the semantic allusions of one cosmological level to another—the reconstruction, in other words, of the cosmos/universe as a metonymically constituted whole consisting of categories that were supposed to be interconnected by means of metaphoric relations—was a spiritual and at the same time aesthetic enterprise greatly influenced by Byzantium’s Neoplatonic heritage. Such an allegorical approach to the universe may be viewed not so much as a generalized “neurosis,” as it has been wittily but condescendingly described in connection with medieval European mentality, but, rather, as a survival or continuation of ancient modes of mythogenesis. [133] This mythogenic mode of thought contributed to a view of the world in terms of pansemiosis [134] where every element in the cosmos was perceived as a symbolic sign.
Already in the fourth century Sallustios had succinctly expressed such an approach to the world. “The cosmos, too,” he said, “can be called a myth since in it bodies and things are apparent but the souls and minds are hidden.” [135] And almost a century later Synesios of Kyrene, a transitional figure between pagan Neoplatonism and Christian spirituality, articulated his conception of the world as an enigmatic text open to multiple interpretations in the following terms:
All things, by their relation to each other, can give omens; because all together they are only different parts of one animal, the Universe. The Universe may be compared to a book in which are inscribed letters of every description, such as Phoenician, Egyptian and Assyrian: the wise man deciphers these letters. [136]
Such a pansemiosis affected almost all aspects of medieval Greek secular and sacred life by means of homological symbolic correlations that connected, for instance, the display of political power with modes of religious ritual communication. [137]
Due to the embeddedness of such homological associations among different domains of human experience in all aspects of medieval Greek culture and thought, Byzantine rhetorical discourse was often associated with broader cosmological and ethical systems of thought. To give one example, Ioannes Sikeliotes, in his commentary on Hermogenes, develops a progressive analogy between rhetoric and the structure of the human body and soul, with a view to proving that rhetoric is not inferior to philosophy but, on the contrary, “an icon and image of the immovable idea of the creator of the universal order.” [138] Beginning with the most basic elements of rhetoric, proems, arguments, epilogues, and so forth, which are compared to bodily parts (head, hands, legs, and so on), Sikeliotes proceeds to the most overarching rhetorical principles, the Hermogenean Ideas, which are considered homological to the virtues of the soul. [139] Clarity (katharotēs), for instance, is associated with temperance (sōphrosunē). This rhetorical idea, Sikeliotes says, may be compared to a chaste wife. Amplitude (peribolē) is connected to the love for God and liberty (philotheon kai eleutheriotēs). [140] Force (deinotēs), on the other hand, “imitates prudence” (τὴν φρόνησιν ὑποκρίνεται), and aims at propriety and perfection, sometimes hiding the things that should be hidden, [141] other times communicating things that need to be communicated. [142]
A parallel may be noticed here between Sikeliotes’ rhetorical theory and that of Neoplatonic philosophers, particularly Proklos, whose threefold categorization of literature is grounded on a conception of the soul as a tripartite structure. In Proklos, the lowest part of the soul is associated with mimetic poetry, which deals with imagined and subjective concepts. The middle level, which is governed by intellect and wisdom (nous kai epistēmē), is connected with didactic poetry. To the highest level of the soul correspond the works of the “theological” poets who can communicate with the divine. [143]
Similar to this is the approach to rhetoric of an anonymous Christian rhetorician. After singling out clarity, brevity, plausibility, and linguistic correctness as the four most important “virtues of narration,” he draws an extensive parallel between discursive qualities and the four cardinal virtues. The anonymous rhetorician continues his argument by adjusting the Neoplatonic theory of the tripartite division of the soul to his own rhetorical and ethical preoccupations. Since each part of the soul must be governed by a specific virtue, he contends, intellect is connected with prudence, the passionate part of the soul is associated with fortitude, and its appetitive part with temperance. The three parts of the soul are conjoined into a harmonious unity by means of justice. [144] Prudence, he argues, dignifies discourse since it disciplines “the swarm of passions” that originate from irrationality. Temperance restrains the “disorderly revolts” caused by men’s habit to cling to earthly preoccupations. Justice is that quality that maintains moderation and equality.

The image and the viewer: deciphering allegorical personifications

As noted above, in his novel, Eumathios connects the idea of riddle composition and deciphering with the description and interpretation of a number of painted personifications. His explicit references to the enigmatic character of these personifications invest his story with an obscurity that contributes to the rhetorical dignity of the whole novel and reinforces its overall allegorical dimensions.
There are three circles of personifications in Hysmine and Hysminias: the first two appear in the second book of the novel and the last one in the fourth book. [145] The series of personifications begins with the depictions of the cardinal Virtues painted on the wall of the garden of Hysminias’ host, Sosthenes, in Aulikomis. On the first day after his arrival as a herald of Zeus in this city, Hysminias, accompanied by his close friend Kratisthenes, explores Sosthenes’ marvelous garden. After a detailed description of the Virtues—Prudence (Phronēsis), Fortitude (Ischus), Temperance (Sōphrosunē), Justice (Themis)—a description of the painted image of Eros follows. In between, the narrator reports his reaction to the personifications of the Virtues. The pictorial system of the personified Virtues is characterized as a drama that calls for Hysminias’ and Kratisthenes’ interpretive skills. [146] The deciphering of the depicted images is facilitated by a one-line iambic inscription written above the heads of the personified “virgins” (2.6.1). After the reading of the brief epigram, the meaning of the symbolic details of the personified Virtues becomes less obscure and the two friends indulge in its detailed explication. In this manner, the apparently static personifications acquire a dynamic function that instigates an interpretive discourse the diction of which echoes the terminology of traditional allegorical interpretation:
ἐντεῦθεν ἐφιλοσοφοῦμεν τὰ τῶν γυναικῶν σχήματα καὶ τὰ μέχρι τοῦ τὸθ’ ἡμῖν κατελαμβάνομεν ἀκατάληπτα.
And then we started to contemplate on the figures of the women and to understand what until then was incomprehensible. [147]
The narrator does not quote the exact dialogue between himself and his friend Kratisthenes, confining himself to a diegetic report of it.
The form of dialogue is spared, though, for a similar interpretive discourse later in the same book. This time, the exegetical enterprise of the two friends is incited by the observation of the image of Eros, the personification of the central Platonic, or rather, as I shall show later, Neoplatonic idea of the novel. The enigmatic character of this painting is indicated in a more explicit way. Eros is depicted as a nude youth with winged feet, sitting like a king on a throne and holding a bow and fire in his hands. He is surrounded by a large crowd of men and women of every age; even kings and tyrants from all over the world seem to pay respect to the young king. Along with all these people two very old women, one white the other dark, are also portrayed. The retinue of the “slaves” of the young king Eros is completed with all kinds of living creatures.
Here, too, the beginning of the interpretive process on the part of the two spectators is marked with the word φιλοσοφῶ. The narrator recalls again his original reaction, which was replete with references to the intriguing nature of the painting. The marked term drama is employed once more, in this case accompanied by the word ainigma (enigma), which points to the specific function of the term drama here as a proleptic reference to the enigmatic character of the whole novel (drama) itself. The semantic ambivalence (amphoteroglōssia) of the word drama is further reinforced through the repetition of the word ainigma and the comparison of the narrator himself with Oidipous. The painter, says Hysminias, is a Sphinx, but he himself is Oidipous and can solve the riddle. [148] On the metanarrative level, this statement could be read as Hysminias’ reference to his role as the creator and main protagonist of the drama, that is, the story that he is now narrating:
ἔχω σου, τεχνῖτα, τὸ αἴνιγμα, ἔχω σου τὸ δρᾶμα· εἰς αὐτόν σου βάπτω τὸν νοῦν· κἂν Σφὶγξ γένῃ, Οἰδίπους ἐγώ· κἂν ὡς ἐκ Πυθικῆς ἐσχάρας καὶ τρίποδος αἰνιγματωδῶς ἀποφοιβάζῃς λοξά, πρόσπολος ἐγώ σοι, καὶ διασαφῶ τὰ αἰνίγματα.
I grasp, artist, your enigma, I grasp your drama. I dip into your own mind. Even if you become a Sphinx, I am Oidipous; even if you articulate oracular, obscure ideas like riddles as though from the Pythian altar and tripod, I am an initiated interpreter [prospolos] and I decipher the riddles.
The image of Hysminias as a prospolos, that is, a ‘priest’ or a ‘servant’ [149] of the enigmatic painter who employs a symbolic code resembling that of Apollo’s ambivalent prophetic discourse, conveys also the idea of interpretation as a mystical process, a topos well established in Greek allegorical tradition. The double meaning of the word apophoibazō (‘utter by inspiration’ and ‘foretell’) [150] reinforces the metanarrative function of this passage since it foretells the importance of the painted Eros in the awakening of Hysminias’ erotic feelings and, therefore, in the development of the whole story (drama). In this manner, Hysminias’ story is developed in terms of both a rite of initiation into the mysteries of love and a rite of interpretation, that is, reenactment of the mysteries of the personified ideas. Unlike the response to the first series of personifications, this interpretive passage does not mark the end, but the middle of the whole ekphrasis of the painting. It is followed by a more detailed description, the extensive explication of which by the two friends takes the form of a brief dialogue. Their interpretation is again facilitated by a two-line iambic epigram written above the head of the “youth,” that is, Eros:
῎Ερως τὸ μειράκιον ὅπλα, πῦρ φέρον,
τόξον, πτερόν, γύμνωσιν, ἰχθύων βέλος.
The youth is Eros, bearing weapons, fire,
bow, wings, nudity, arrow against fish.
Alluding to the pragmatics of actual contexts of interpretive response to epigrams inscribed on works of art, Hysminias asks Kratisthenes to decipher for him the meaning of the iconographic details of the portrait of the nude youth according to the epigram (τῇ γραφῇ προσάρμοττε τὸ ἐπίγραμμα; 2.11.2). Kratisthenes replies that Eros is depicted in this fashion because he rules over all living creatures and governs the succession of day and night, which are symbolically represented by the two very old women.
In the fourth book, the third series of personifications depicts the twelve Months and, once more, incites the surprise and the interpretive zeal of the two friends (4.4–18). The emblematic features of the personified Months are described as “paradoxes” that bewilder their spectators (4.17.1). The initially elusive pictorial signifiers call for intense exegetical contemplation that is later described with the emphatic term καταφιλοσοφῶ (4.19.1). In this case, too, a one-verse epigram directs the deciphering of the paintings:
τοὺς ἄνδρας ἀρθρῶν τὸν χρόνον βλέπεις ὅλον.
Observing these men you see the whole year.
The reaction of Hysminias and Kratisthenes to the personifications of abstractions depicted on the wall of Sosthenes’ garden reenacts, I argue, the interaction between spectator and work of art documented in other examples of Greek literature. The iambic verses that accompany the painted figures in Sosthenes’ garden reflect the unity of image and epigram very often encountered in Byzantine art where the poetic text functions as a brief literary comment on the picture. [151] More specifically, Hysminias’ and Kratisthenes’ extensive discussions about the enigmatic meaning of particular details of the paintings find their parallel in the literary practice of the composition of ekphraseis or epigrams that emphasize the enigmatic nature of the works of art to which they refer.
Such a literary exegetical approach to painting flourished already in late antiquity. In his Herakles, for instance, Lucian describes his reaction to a “Celtic” portrait of the homonymous hero. The idiosyncratic pictorial representation of the hero, which, the Lucianic narrator remarks, was different from Herakles’ established image in Greek mythology and art surprised the narrator immensely. The intriguing depiction is explicated to him by a Celt bystander, who compares the perplexing effect of the painting on the narrator with a riddle: ᾿Εγώ σοι, ἔφη, ὦ ξένε, λύσω τῆς γραφῆς τὸ αἴνιγμα· πάνυ γὰρ ταραττομένῳ ἔοικας πρὸς αὐτήν [152] (“‘Foreigner,’ he said, ‘I shall solve the riddle of the picture for you; for you seem to be very bewildered by it’”). The Celt then proceeds to construe the hidden meaning of the painting: Herakles, he says, is an allegorical depiction of logos, which the Celts, unlike the Greeks, identify with this hero, not Hermes. The hero is portrayed as a very old man since, according to the interpreter, it is only in old age that one can attain perfection in logos. [153]
Kebes’ Tabula offers perhaps the most multilayered example in the Greek tradition of an ekphrasis combined with sustained allegorical explication. In its use of personification and of highly ritualistic exegetical contemplation, this text presents, I think, some intriguing parallels with Makrembolites’ narrative exploitation of pictorial and discursive allegory. Despite the fact that no direct or indirect dependence of Makrembolites’ novel on Kebes’ Tabula can be established, it must be stressed that the latter seem to have been known to medieval Greek authors. [154]
Kebes’ narrator recalls his pilgrimage to a sanctuary of Kronos. He went there, he says, accompanied by a friend. In the temple, he saw a mysterious painting (graphē xenē), the symbolic meaning of which he and his companion were unable to decipher (ouk ēdunametha sumbalein). [155] This image represented three enclosures, the one surrounded by the other. In front of the first cyclical space was a throng of people; next to the people was portrayed an old man, who seemed to give some orders to the crowd. Inside the enclosure were a number of female figures. The two visitors were given an explanation of the meaning of the painting by an old man. This picture, the interpreter explains to the narrator and his friend, was dedicated to Kronos by an old man, a foreigner who was an adherent of Pythagorean and Parmenidean philosophy. The interpreter’s allegorical exegesis of the sacred image, which is supposed to have been entrusted to him by the old man who had offered the painting to the sanctuary, bespeaks an eclectic combination of a number of philosophical trends. [156]
The interpreter warns his puzzled interlocutors that his allegorical interpretation may entail a fatal danger for them if they are oblivious to the solemnity of the issue. The interpreter, like Hysminias in Makrembolites’ novel, resorts to the archetypal metaphor of enigmatic discourse, the mythical Sphinx, to foreground the possible risks ensuing from his deciphering. Such an explication, he says, resembles the Sphinx’s riddle. If one understands it, he is saved, otherwise he is ruined. [157] There is, though, he adds, a significant difference. The victims of the mythological Sphinx were destroyed immediately. In contrast, the inattentive recipients of this allegorical truth are destined for gradual destruction throughout their lives.
There is an interesting correspondence between the old interpreter’s warning and the content of his explication. Both discourses are based on a similar deep narrative schema with a moralizing focus: life is depicted as a potentially dangerous condition where man can be easily led astray. The picture, the interpreter says, is supposed to represent life. The depicted female figures stand for Virtues and Vices. If man is misled by the latter—Glories, Desires, and Pleasures—he will suffer in the hands of Punishment and Sadness. If, though, he follows the difficult uphill road that leads to True Education, Knowledge, and all the other Virtues, that is, Fortitude, Justice, Goodness, Temperance, Propriety, Freedom, Self-Control, and Gentleness (᾿Ανδρεία, Δικαιοσύνη, Καλοκἀγαθία, Σωφροσύνη, Εὐταξία, ᾿Ελευθερία, ᾿Εγκράτεια, Πρᾳότης), man arrives at the realm of Happiness (Εὐδαιμονία). [158] According to the wise interpreter’s warning, this translation of the enigmatic picture into a climactic allegorical plot where each personified figure assumes a specific narrative function may also be reenacted in the real life of the person who has been initiated into the mystical meaning of the allegorical image: his life may develop as an encoding or reenactment of the allegorical pictorial discourse.
This, more or less, is what happens in Makrembolites’ novel too: Hysminias’ journey toward real Eros may be seen as a progressive acting out of the mystical plot embodied—and, to a great extent, contrived—by the personified powers in Sosthenes’ garden. The parallels between Kebes and Makrembolites should not be forced any further. However, it should again be stressed that both texts share a comparable interest in the narrative fictionalization of allegorically represented ideals. This fictionalization takes different forms in each of these two texts due also to the dissimilarities of their respective genres. Nevertheless, in both works spirituality and philosophical discourse are allotted pivotal roles.
The ancient Greek novel provides an admittedly firmer ground for comparison. The preamble in Longos has the form of an ekphrasis. The narrator recalls a painting that he saw in a grove dedicated to the Nymphs in Lesbos. He proceeds to a detailed description of the image based on the explication offered to him by an exēgētēs (interpreter), the equivalent of the interpreters in Lucian and Kebes. Longos’ whole narrative, as has been aptly observed, is formulated as an extensive ekphrasis indeed [159] probably drawing on contemporary art. [160]
Leukippe and Kleitophon begins in a similar manner. An ekphrasis of a painting portraying the myth of Europe forms the narrative frame of the novel. As in the works of Kebes and Makrembolites, here, too, the encounter with the described image occurs in a rather ritualistic context. [161] The narrator in Leukippe and Kleitophon saw this painting during a visit to the temple of Astarte in Sidon where he wanted to make his votive offerings. His intense attraction especially to the portrait of Eros, and his contemplation of the god’s omnipotence—a motif that recurs also in Makrembolites’ novel—incites the response of a bystander observer who turns out to be no other than Kleitophon, the male protagonist of the novel. In this manner, the novel is presented as the word-for-word transcription of Kleitophon’ story and Kleitophon assumes the function of the homodiegetic narrator in the main corpus of the novel. [162]
The same approach to painting as an encoded signifying system was also fostered by Byzantine literati. We have already seen that in his Ekphrasis or Allegory of Kirke, [163] Psellos does not confine himself to a description of the theme that he discusses but, as indicated by the title of his short treatise, proceeds to its allegorical explication as well. An ekphrasis of the scene of “The Walking on the Water” in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople by Messarites offers a Christian equivalent to Psellos’ more profane allegorization. Messarites compares Peter’s rescue from the waves with the salvation of Adam from Hades. [164]
If painting in general had the potential to inspire allegorical analogies in the mind and the literary expression of its real or purported Byzantine spectators, [165] personification must have had the same effect in a more intense way since, by definition, its function is to make visible (in painting) what is invisible (abstract ideas) by means of symbolic pictorial representations. The significance of personification was accessible therefore only to those capable of deciphering its symbolic language, whereas for the rest it remained an abstruse riddle. [166] In other words, the aesthetic effect of emphasis, traditionally associated with image in Neoplatonic and Byzantine Christian thought, [167] was also expected from the pictorial personifications of abstract ideas. The underlying principle of pictorial personification is parallel to that of literary allegory: while the latter says one thing and means another, the former depicts one thing, but it refers to something else.
More specifically, I argue that personification in painting constitutes a pictorial realization of what rhetoricians defined as “riddle based on similarity” (αἴνιγμα καθ’ ὅμοιον) in the art of speech. This is the first of the six kinds of riddle proposed by Tryphon. This type is illustrated by the example of Androkydes the Pythagorean who, as Tryphon notes, used to employ the enigmatic phrase “do not step over the balance (zugos)” instead of the literal one “do not transgress justice.” [168] It seems that in Tryphon’s rhetorical theory this type of riddle is the one closest to the trope of allegory, which, according to the same rhetorician, is also based on the principle of likeness (καθ’ ὁμοίωσιν). [169] The conceptual affinities between pictorial personification and allegorical tropes in literature is clearly elucidated by the fact that in painting the image of a pair of scales (zugos) is indeed an important symbolic component of the depiction of the personified Justice. [170] In Makrembolites, for instance, the figure of Themis (Justice) holds a stathmē (balance) in her right hand (2.5.2). Zugos is associated with Justice also in Prodromos’ poem on personified Vices and Virtues. [171]
If Prodromos’ poem exemplifies the discursive allegorical polarization of Virtues and Vices in a vivid but laconic manner, another twelfth-century author, Manuel Karantenos, dwells on an extensive allegorical representation of the pair Philosophy (Virtue)/Rhetoric (Vice). The importance of this neglected piece lies in its genre flexibility. It may be described as an extended sugkrisis that has been composed in the mode of an allegorical ekphrasis. The anthropomorphic depiction of Philosophy as a Virtue and of Rhetoric as a Vice is articulated in a highly allegorical manner and in concrete details. Although it is clear that these personifications are Karantenos’ own fictitious inventions, his account is so precise as though it were an ekphrasis of actual paintings.
In fact, the author refers to his literary composition in terms that bespeak an awareness of a close association between pictorial and verbal modes of representation. In this work, Karantenos says, he is going to “paint the sophistic idea and, with the help of perceptive imagination, to picture the two disciplines in a verbal discourse that resembles painting” (καὶ τὴν σοφιστικὴν ἰδέαν χρωματουργήσω καί, ὡς ὑπὸ πίνακι τῷ λόγῳ, ταύτας σοι … κατὰ τὴν καταληπτικὴν φαντασίαν εἰκονογραφήσομαι). [172] He will portray, he continues, Philosophy as a stable and divine woman, very serious and modest, with a manly gaze and shaven head, a sign that she dismisses all that is superfluous. The details of her portrait are rendered in the same emblematic, allegorical mode that characterizes the personifications of Months and Virtues in Hysmine and Hysminias. In her right hand Philosophy has a spindle with thin yarn; in the left she holds a beautiful naked girl. Following the conventions of ekphraseis of allegorical personifications, Karantenos does not leave these symbolic elements without explication. The yarn, he explains, symbolizes the very fine philosophical discourses on nature and virtue, while the young naked girl represents the ideal of pure truth—the ultimate end of philosophy. [173] With one foot Philosophy strikes out at Lie, which is depicted as a monster exhaling smoky and dark breath; with the other foot she kicks away an embellished tunic that symbolizes human passions. Her head is crowned with a perfectly rounded sphere that stands for the all-covering heaven, another object, as Karantenos explains, of philosophical reflection.
Rhetoric, by contrast, is depicted as an effeminate boy, “soft and delicate, likable to Aphrodite and the Graces.” The personified Rhetoric has long curly hair that is put up with a golden hair-pin and decorated with an elaborate band embellished with the figures of young boys (meirakia) who resemble erōtes and are followed by jubilant men. Karantenos’ daring description indicates that the playful meirakia and the personified Rhetoric’s overall inflated elegance symbolize this art’s deceiving devices that may allure and lead astray those “men who, due to their narcissism, suffer from gullibility” (νοσοῦντας τὸ ἐκ φιλαυτίας εὐεξαπάτητον). [174]
The interconnection of pictorial and discursive allegorical modes is vividly illustrated in an anonymous Byzantine ekphrasis of the twelve Months that, time and again, refers to the enigmatic nature of the personifications it describes, beginning with its very title Ekphrasis of Months That Have Been Symbolically Painted (῎Εκφρασις μηνῶν ὑπὸ ζωγράφου καταγεγραμμένων συμβολικῶς). [175] In one of his letters, Tzetzes, too, describes a depiction of the personified Kairos as an enigma. [176] Enigma is the term that the author of the twelfth-century satire Timarion also employs in his reference to the representations of idiosyncratic pictorial themes in contemporary residences. [177] Writing in the fourteenth century, Manuel Philes composed some epigrams on pictorial personifications of the cardinal Virtues. In one of these it is clear that the Virtues were depicted in the palace indeed, and Philes interprets them as symbolic representations of the Emperor’s excellence. [178] In another brief poem, Philes addresses Prudence in the second person and again associates her with the Emperor, “who has shown his head to be your [Prudence’s] instrument.” [179] The portrait of Fortitude is explicated by Philes as a representation of “the soul’s boldness in the face of passions.” [180] In the description of Justice and Temperance, Philes puts emphasis on the symbolic pictorial vocabulary of their portraits. Justice seems to be addressing the spectator, asking him to direct his attention to the pair of scales that she holds: “on seeing, O stranger, the image of the heavenly scales/weigh well your actions in this life.” [181] The epigram on Temperance focuses on the Virtue’s modest gaze and “garments that are drawn together.” [182] In another poem on a personification of Life, Philes employs a diction that underscores the emphasis and the symbolic character of the picture, which calls for the spectator’s contemplative response: “on seeing this symbol of the shadow of things,/bear in mind, O man, the end that is hidden from you.” [183]
The Byzantines, in other words, perceived personification not as a static pictorial or literary trope but as a dynamic one. The effectiveness of this trope depended on the active participation of its receivers—audience or spectators—in an interpretive process. The close interrelationship between personification and allegorical tropes in Byzantine art and literature indicates that a watertight distinction between them would underestimate the allegorical dimensions of personification and the importance of the exegetical response of the spectator for its effective function. [184] Makrembolites reflects this broader tendency of Byzantine literature and art in his account of Hysminias’ and Kratisthenes’ zealous interpretive engagement with the enigmatic symbolism of the personifications depicted in Sosthenes’ garden. In this respect, the dynamism of medieval Greek personification—either discursive or pictorial—seems to confirm Fletcher’s theoretical description of personified abstractions as “probably the most obvious allegorical agents.” [185]
In Makrembolites’ novel the dynamic function of the personifications of the Virtues and Eros, on the one hand, and of the Months, on the other, as enigmatic paintings responsible for the exegetical response of their spectators, is further reinforced by means of their transformation into literary personifications or prosōpopoiiai. [186] This effect is again evident on two levels. At the micronarrative level, that is, in the specific descriptive passages of the personifications and the corresponding interpretive response of Hysminias and Kratishenes to them, this result is indirectly achieved by means of the appropriation of the conventions of literary compositions whose subject matter are exactly personifications of abstract ideas. At the macronarrative level, Eros and one of the Virtues, Sophrosyne, reappear later in the novel and retain the anthropomorphic features ascribed to them in their painted depictions in Sosthenes’ garden. In this way, the personifications of Sophrosyne and Eros acquire an almost autonomous status that releases them from the confines of their painted depictions and extends their allegorical potential all the way through the development and the final resolution of the narrated story.
First I want to analyze the micronarrative level. Twelfth-century medieval Greek literature provides some interesting examples of literary personifications combined with the theme of painted personifications. These texts, therefore, seem to occupy an intermediate position between ekphrasis and ēthopoiia. As we saw in the previous Chapter, in his poem on Virtues and Vices, which has been unjustly ignored by modern scholarship, Theodoros Prodromos presents twenty-six personified Virtues and Vices, each one describing its main features in direct speech. [187] Another poem attributed to Theodoros Prodromos on the personified twelve Months is similar. As in Hysmine and Hysminias, the circle of the Months begins with March and ends with February. Unlike Hysmine and Hysminias, though, in Prodromos’ poem, the twelve Months introduce themselves in the first person, each of them recommending the diet presumed appropriate for the specific period of the year that this specific Month represents. [188] Another short anonymous poem on the twelve Months, probably dependent on Prodromos’ work, constitutes an interesting combination of an ekphrasis of pictorial personifications and a rhetorical prosōpopoiia. [189] In this poem, the personified Months are arranged in a different order, beginning with January and ending with December. Most Months present themselves in direct speech, using the first and occasionally the second person, when they address their imagined spectator. This is the case, for instance, with January, who says to his addressee: “I am a hunter, see the hares” (Θηρατικός τίς εἰμι, τοὺς λαγὼς βλέπε). [190]
At the micronarrative level, then, Makrembolites’ novel bespeaks some affinities with this kind of literary personifications in which the personified abstractions speak by way of rhetorical prosōpopoiia. However, Makrembolites goes beyond such literary paradigms and employs their genre conventions in an innovative way. In his descriptions, it is not the personifications that speak to their spectators but the latter who voice what the personified abstractions would have presumably said. At some points the influence of rhetorical prosōpopoiia is clear. For instance, in Hysminias’ retrospective account of the interpretation that he and Kratisthenes gave to the personification of the first cardinal Virtue (Prudence), the protagonist imagines “her” speaking in the first person:
ἐντεῦθεν ἐφιλοσοφοῦμεν τὰ τῶν γυναικῶν σχήματα … τὸ σχῆμα τῆς κόρης, τὸ σχῆμα τῆς δεξιᾶς μονονοὺ λεγούσης, ὡς “ἐνταῦθα τὸν ὄλβον ἔχω περὶ τὴν κεφαλήν.”
And then we started to contemplate the figures of the women … the figure of the maiden, the gesture of the right hand that was almost saying something like “my happiness is here in my head.”
At other times, the function of the voice of the personified abstractions is assumed by the short epigrams that accompany them. [191]
At the macronarrative level, the transformation of these images from their status as painted personifications into literary allegorical agents—that is, into active anthropomorphic forces contributing to the development of the story and investing it with further allegorical dimensions—is achieved by means of the narrative convention of dreams and the rhetorical device of antithesis. [192] It is in Hysminias’ dreams that Eros is presented as a speaking god, while Sophrosyne reappears later in the narrative in a vivid description based on the rhetorical effectiveness of antithesis, in which Hysminias recalls his unsuccessful and shameful attempt against Hysmine’s virginity. [193] In this recollected scene, Sophrosyne is depicted as a personified force fighting against Eros. The former is supposed to be represented by Hysmine, while the latter by Hysminias himself. At the end of the novel, the antithesis is removed and replaced by the harmonious union of the two young lovers.
This basic opposition, which bears also the conditions of its own ultimate narrative resolution, permeates the whole novel and is conducive to the allegorical modulations of Hysminias’ story. On the micronarrative level, the structural dynamics of antithesis had been already introduced in the interpretive response of Hysminias and Kratishenes to the personifications depicted in Sosthenes’ garden. On the one hand, Eros is juxtaposed to the Virtues and, on the other, to the Months—the allegorical representation of time. Commenting on the first contrast and employing a metaphor drawn from Christian literature, Hysminias remarks that “vices are neighbors of virtues” (ἀγχίθυροι ταῖς ἀρεταῖς αἱ κακίαι; 2.8.1). [194]
The second aspect of the antithesis is dealt with by Hysminias and Kratisthenes in the discussion that follows their observation of the personifications of the twelve Months. The issue now is why Eros is not depicted with the Months. This problem gives rise to an enthusiastic debate on the nature of Eros and its relation to time (kairos). The argumentation of the two friends is tacitly based on the semantic multivalence of the word kairos. Hysminias seems to perceive it either in its general meaning of “time” or in its more specific meaning of “season.” Kratisthenes, in contrast, seems to play with its alternative meaning “opportune time.” Hysminias contends that Eros has not been depicted with the Months because he can adjust himself to every season:
καὶ θέρει μὲν καὶ ψύχει καὶ ἔαρι καὶ τοῖς πᾶσιν ἁπλῶς καιρὸς ἀφωσίωται, ῎Ερως δ’ οὐ περιγέγραπται τῇ γραφῇ, οὐ πρὸς καιρὸν τῇ τέχνῃ μετεχρωμάτισται· πάντως, ὅτι παντὶ καιρῷ μεθαρμόζεται.
To the summer and the winter and the spring and, in one word, to all the seasons specific periods of time have been allotted, whereas Eros has not been circumscribed by the painting; nor has art painted him along with some specific period of time: no doubt because he can fit in any time period.
Later, Hysminias modifies his view slightly, arguing that everything, time included, is subject to Eros’ power (4.20.4–5). Kratisthenes’ interpretation takes a more moralistic direction: Eros can transgress any boundaries and thus become a tyrant (4.20.3).
The description of the personifications and their subsequent exegesis proposed by the two friends raise some questions about the nature of the antithesis introduced in this part of the novel and reappearing in another form later in the story. We may assume that the conventions of the genre of the novel would have directed the attention of the original audience to the final resolution of such an antithesis since a basic structural characteristic of this genre is that, in the end, any oppositions result in an harmonious unity.
How are the two aspects of this pivotal structural and thematic antithesis in the novel—the oppositions between the Virtues and Eros, on the one hand, and Eros and the Months, on the other—interrelated? What is the connection between the Virtues and Time? Both the interrelations among these terms of the antithesis as well as its final resolution were suggested by Makrembolites to his original audience in two ways: first, by means of certain allusions to real pictorial parallels from earlier or contemporary Greek art; second, by means of the transference of the allegorical dimensions of the painted personifications from the micronarrative level (on which they had a rather proleptic narratological character) to the macronarrative level (on which they assume a pivotal role in the development of the main story of the novel). It is on the macronarrative level that the allusions of the author to Neoplatonism contribute to the allegorical resolution of the basic antithesis of the story, although these allusions were for the first time introduced in the novel on the micronarrative level.
As far as the personifications and their allusions to actual examples of art are concerned, the resolution of the antithesis is realized in all the possible relations among its three terms: Virtues versus Eros, Eros versus Time, Time versus Virtues. [195] The first pair—Virtues versus Eros the king—finds its parallel in those cases where a Byzantine Emperor is depicted flanked by personifications of virtues. [196]
The second pair, that is, Eros versus Time, is more obscure. A detail of the description of Eros by Makrembolites, however, can shed some light on the possible connections of these paintings with Greek iconography and elucidate the relation between Eros and Time in the novel. In the description of Eros, it is said that his feet were not like those of men but completely covered with wings (τὼ πόδε, μὴ κατ’ ἄνθρωπον ἦν τῷ μειρακίῳ, ἀλλ’ ὅλον πτερόν; 2.7.3). The interpretations of this detail that have been so far proposed attest to a certain bewilderment. [197] It was Carolina Cupane who first argued that this detail is not paralleled in Greek art and should be viewed therefore as Makrembolites’ innovation. Cupane’s interpretation of the Greek text has misled her otherwise insightful analysis, which has not been challenged in subsequent scholarship. According to Cupane, Makrembolites’ phrase τὼ πόδε, μὴ κατ’ ἄνθρωπον τῷ μειρακίῳ, ἀλλ’ ὅλον πτερόν means that the legs of Eros end in two wings, not in feet. [198] I contend that in this phrase, which recalls the depiction of Eros as Pteros in the Platonic Phaedrus, [199] Makrembolites underlines the general characteristic that Eros has wings at his feet, not that the latter have been altogether replaced by the former. This feature is peculiar enough to differentiate Eros from human beings. Makrembolites did not need to endow him with wings in the place of his feet in order to convey this impression. [200]
If my reading of Eumathios’ image is correct, then this iconographic detail calls for a new interpretation. A possible interpretation can be inferred from the text itself: the close association of Eros with the Months, that is, with Time, or Kairos—to recall the original Greek term that Hysminias and Kratisthenes use in their reflection upon the pictorial synthesis of Eros and the Months—may suggest some fusion of Eros with the personification of Kairos in Greek art. In addition to his appearance as a nude youth, the ancient Greek Kairos bears another important similarity to the image of Eros in Hysmine and Hysminias: he has wings at his feet. Such a reading of this feature of Makrembolites’ Eros seems to be corroborated first by the emphasis placed on the relation of Eros with kairos in Hysminias’ and Kratishenes’ allegorical explication of the pictures and second by the fascination of some twelfth-century authors with the personification of Kairos. [201]
The possible assimilation of this detail from the iconography of Kairos in the depiction of Eros in Hysmine and Hysminias foregrounds Eros’ all-encompassing power. Furthermore, such a fusion of symbolic pictorial elements explains why the philosophically charged dialogue between Hysminias and Kratisthenes about the juxtaposition of Eros and the Months ends with the conclusion that Eros is above “every part of time.” In a sense, Eros contains, and therefore controls “any division and part of time” (πᾶν τμῆμα καιροῦ καὶ διάστημα; cf. 4.20.5). Special emphasis is given to the subordination of the “material” aspects of time to Eros. This detail indicates, I submit, that Eros is beyond time and closer to eternity (aiōn):
εἰ δὲ καὶ πᾶν τμῆμα καιροῦ καὶ διάστημα ἐξ ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτός ὡς ἐξ ὕλης τὴν σύστασιν ἔσχηκεν, αὗται δὲ δοῦλαι κατὰ τὴν γραφὴν καὶ τὸ σὸν μυσταγώγημα, εὔδηλον ὡς καὶ τὸ ἐκ τούτων καὶ δι’ αὐτῶν [καὶ] ὅλον ἐν ὅλαις αὐταῖς οὐκ ἀποφύγῃ τὴν δούλωσιν, ἀλλ’ ἆκον συνδουλαγωγηθήσεται.
And if the constituent material, so to speak, of every part and every segment of time is day and night and these [day and night], according to the painting and your own initiating explication, are slaves, then it is clear that everything that is constituted by them and through them and exists within them will not escape slavery either, but will be unwillingly dragged to slavery.
Kratisthenes’ and Hysminias’ discussion here may reflect, I argue, philosophical and theological discourses on the notion of time and aiōn. In the eleventh century, Michael Psellos had addressed the subject systematically and in the Komnenian era Nikolaos of Methone dedicated a considerable amount of his work to the same philosophical issue. Both thinkers were engaged in a close dialogue with Neoplatonism, especially Plotinos and Proklos. The main philosophical distinction between time (chronos) and eternity (aiōn) is based on the premise that the former is part of the latter. Aiōn is chronos’ paradigm (παράδειγμα τοῦ χρόνου) whereas the latter is the “icon of the former” (εἰκὼν τοῦ αἰῶνος). Perishable elements are conditioned by time, while eternal powers exist within the aiōn. [202] Clearly, in Makrembolites, the association of Eros with aiōn rather than chronos highlights Eros’ nature as a divine, or, to employ a marked (Neo)Platonic term, a demonic power.
As for the third pair, the Virtues and the Months, some important iconographic parallels may elucidate the way in which Makrembolites interweaves motifs from his contemporary medieval Greek art with his own story. Personified Virtues are depicted along with the personified Months in two late-eleventh- or early-twelfth-century Gospel manuscripts produced most probably at the same scriptorium in Constantinople. More specifically, eight pages of one of these manuscripts, now at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, contain canon tables decorated with personified Months and Virtues. The first two of these pages bear illuminations of six Months, from September up to February. Then, the set of the Months breaks off, but it seems that the original manuscript contained another folio with the depictions of the remaining Months. The next six pages contain the personifications of eighteen Virtues. It is probable, though, that their original total number was twenty-four, the remaining six having been illuminated in a folio now missing. A similar arrangement is preserved in the second manuscript from the same period, Marcianus Graecus Z. 540. The only cardinal virtue that is not represented in the Melbourne manuscript is Justice. However, a comparison with the Venetian manuscript suggests that most probably she was depicted in the missing folio. [203]
The Virtues and the Months in these manuscripts are portrayed in a manner that does not differ considerably from Makrembolites’ description, except for the order of the Months. [204] Although there is no explicit theological reason for the simultaneous depiction of both the Months and the Virtues in these Gospel manuscripts, it would not be too daring to assume that their simultaneous appearance in a religious context may suggest an additional function beyond their mere decorative one: it might point to the importance of the observance of order and the right fulfillment of worldly pursuits for the achievement of virtues. The reverse cannot be excluded either: the worldly pursuits, as represented by the personified Months, should be accompanied by the virtues, which, in the pictorial narrative of the Gospel manuscript, follow them. Be this as it may, these two manuscripts provide an important late-eleventh- or early-twelfth-century iconographic parallel to Makrembolites’ personifications.
In addition to this evidence, other twelfth-century authors attest to the depiction of personifications in contemporary monumental art. An ekphrasis of the house of Leon Sikoudenos in Thessalonike refers to the portrayal of personified Virtues. The Virtues in Sikoudenos’ mansion, it is stressed, are not depicted only as static figures but also in action, that is, as embodied by representative heroes of the venerated biblical mythology such as Moses and Joshua, and (it is added in a conventionally eulogistic manner) by contemporary paradigms of virtue such as the Emperor Manuel:
The artist has painted these virtues both by themselves and in various forms that express them in action, namely by delineating venerable men who excelled in virtue. [205]
Manganeios Prodromos offers another telling example of the assimilation of traditional secular imagery in the pictorial vocabulary of twelfth-century art commissioned for private consumption. In his description of a tent belonging to his patroness, the Sebastokratorissa Eirene, Manganeios enumerates the themes depicted on it:
Δέσποινα, μοῦσα τῶν μουσῶν, ἀκρόπολις τοῦ κάλλους,
τὰ πρόθυρά σου τῆς σκηνῆς πεπλήρωνται χαρίτων.
῎Ερωτες πλήττουσι χορδάς, σιγῇ κιθαρῳδοῦσιν,
δοκοῦσι παίζειν σάτυροι, σκιρτῶσιν ἱπποκράται,
αἱ μοῦσαι συγχορεύουσι, πηδῶσι νηρηίδες. [206]
Lady, Muse of the Muses, acropolis of beauty,
The patio of your tent is replete with charms.
Cupids pluck strings, they silently play the kithara,
satyrs seem to play too, centaurs bounce,
the Muses dance along with them, Nereids also leap.
Manganeios’ detailed account should by no means be read as the product of unrealistic poetic fancy. Theodoros Balsamon, who writes in the same century, in his comments on Canon 100 of the Quinisext Council, seems to imply that paintings of cupids (erōtidia) were still visible in the houses of certain rich people. [207] Either works of contemporary art or remains of antiquity, examples of such daring representations were open to public view in twelfth-century Byzantium, as Niketas Choniates’ description of the monument of the Anemodoulion also indicates. “Naked cupids [are represented on this monument] pelting one another with apples,” Niketas observes. [208]
The analysis of the probable affinities of Makrembolites’ personifications with pictorial conventions of his age or of earlier Greek art suggests that he drew the components of his allegorical pictorial compositions mainly from his own rather than the Western European cultural environment and adjusted them to his specific narrative purposes. Of special importance for deciphering the function of the Virtues in Makrembolites’ novel is the ekphrasis of Sikoudenos’ house: this description indicates an appreciation of the dynamic potential of pictorial personifications as active elements in a metonymic reenactment of sanctioned narratives—religious (stories from the Old Testament) or political (the exploits of the praised Emperor).

The poetics of eris: antithetical structure and emblematic names

By alluding to contemporary works of art, Makrembolites invested his pivotal double antithesis—the contrasts between the personified Virtues and Eros, on the one hand, and Eros and Time on the other—with an intricate ambivalence. This ambivalence, which is introduced very early in the narrative, functions as a subtle proleptic allusion to the possibility of the final resolution of the central antithesis. This resolution is actually achieved at the end of the novel. This pivotal double antithesis of Virtues and Eros and Eros and Time constitutes the axis around which the macronarrative level of the story is constructed.
Plepelits discerns several Platonic echoes of the depiction of Eros in Makrembolites. [209] My analysis endorses these observations to the extent that they do not impose an oversimplified reading of the novel, but goes further to explore not so much the Platonic as the Neoplatonic allusions in Makrembolites. My investigation of these allusions, which have by and large escaped the attention of previous scholarship, is based on a systematic contextualization of the novel’s rhetorical and ideological background within the broader twelfth-century cultural environment.
In my view, this pivotal double antithesis in the novel—which is firmly established in the second and fourth books by means of the detailed descriptions of the personifications and the interpretive response of Hysminias and Kratisthenes to them—is also suggested and consistently activated throughout the story by the names of the two young lovers. The names Hysmine and Hysminias, which recall the epic word husminē (fight, battle), [210] have given rise to some discussion, which has failed to elucidate the intricacy of their allusiveness. [211] Nevertheless, it has been reasonably argued that the author’s choice of Υ instead of Ι, which would have given the well-known form Ismene and the more obscure but attested Ismenias, [212] may be associated with the Pythagorean preference for the former letter, the “philosophical letter” (gramma philosophon), as it is described in the Proklan commentary on Timaios. [213]
This argument could be further corroborated by some interesting evidence about the symbolic significance of rough breathing in general provided by the twelfth-century commentary on Hesiod’s Theogony by Ioannes Diakonos Galenos, who, as noted above, was considerably influenced by Neoplatonism. [214] Discussing the meaning of the number of Muses, Ioannes Diakonos proposes the following allegorical interpretation:
οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἕτερον τὸ ἐννέα, ἀλλ’ ἢ ἓν πρὸς ἑαυτὸ ἀναστρεφόμενόν τε καὶ συμπτυσσόμενον, ὥσπερ ὑπό τινος ὅρου καὶ πέρατος, τῆς μονάδος καὶ τοῦ πληθυντικοῦ σκεδασμοῦ, καὶ εἰς ἀπειρίαν προϊόντος ὑπ’ αὐτῆς εἰργόμενόν τε καὶ ἐπεχόμενον. ῎Εστι γὰρ ταῖς ψυχαῖς ῥοπή τις πρὸς πληθυσμόν, ἣν ἀνασειράζειν εἴωθεν ἡ τοῦ νοῦ πρὸς ἑαυτὸ ἐπιστροφή τε καὶ ἕλιξις … ῾Ο ἐννέα ἀριθμός, δύο ε̄ν̄ ἐστὶ πρὸς ἑαυτὰ συστρεφόμενα. Τὸ μὲν γὰρ πρῶτον ε̄ν̄ τὴν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ἐνούσαν ῥοπὴν πρὸς πληθυσμὸν ὑποσημαίνειν ἔοικε· διὸ πνεῦμα ἐπιδέχεται, τὴν τοιαύτην ἐμφαῖνον ὁρμήν· … τὸ δὲ δεύτερον ε̄ν̄, ὃ καὶ ἀντιστρόφως ἀναγινώσκεται ν̄ε̄̄, τὴν πρὸς ἑαυτὴν ὑποσημαίνει τῆς ψυχῆς στροφήν … ὁρμὴν γὰρ ὡσανεὶ φυσικὴν ἔχει τὸ ἓν εἰς σκεδασμόν τε καὶ πληθυσμόν, ἣν δὴ ῥοπὴν ὑποσημαίνειν ἐθέλει τοῦ πνεύματος ἡ δασύτης. [215]
Ennea [nine] is nothing else but the hen [one] that turns back to itself and is folded together as though by some boundary and limit of the monad and the multiplying scattering, and while proceeding toward infinity it is inhibited and obstructed by it. For in the souls there is an inherent proclivity toward multiplicity, which is drawn back by the backward movement and convolution toward one’s self that the intellect imposes … The number ennea consists of two en revolving around each other. The first en seems to indicate the soul’s inherent disposition to multiplicity; this is why it takes breathing that alludes to this drive; the second en, inversely read as ne, indicates the soul’s turning to itself …; for hen [sc. ‘one’] seems to have a tendency toward multiplicity and scattering, a proclivity that the aspiration of breathing wants to indicate.
This excerpt from Galenos’ commentary attests to the symbolic significance that some twelfth-century Byzantine scholars attributed even to trivial linguistic phenomena. In the case of Galenos, as in, I suggest, the case of Makrembolites too, such an allegorical attitude toward language was invested with Neoplatonic overtones. Seen in the light of such possible allusiveness, the heroes’ similar names (which, due to their spelling with the Υ, bear specific epic semantic connotations) may suggest a division of an original unity into two constituents: two names—one feminine, one masculine—derived from a common root, “Hysmine” and “Hysminias,” respectively. This unity is recovered at the very end of the novel with the reunion and marriage of the two young lovers. Viewed in connection with the overall development of the story, the letter Υ invests the names of the main agents of Makrembolites’ narrative with a dynamic allusiveness comparable to the allegorical associations of rough breathing expressed by Galenos.
The negative epic connotations of the name Hysmine (fight, battle) may be explained in connection with the contrast between Eros and Sophrosyne (Temperance), which is sustained throughout the novel. The two personified powers of this antithetical pair are indirectly identified with the hero and the heroine, respectively. This contrast is eventually replaced by the final reconciliation between Eros and Sophrosyne.
In addition to this happy dénouement of the story, some subtle but recurrent borrowings from Hesiod contribute to the ambivalence of the heroes’ seemingly ominous allegorical names. In Hesiod’s Theogony, the word husminē occurs as a personified power: Hysminai are the daughters of Eris (Strife). [216] In this Hesiodic work, Eris is of a totally negative nature. In Works and Days, though, she acquires an additional positive quality. Proklos’ commentary on this work, well known to twelfth-century Byzantine scholars, as the commentary of Ioannes Tzetzes on the same text indicates, [217] observes:
διττή ἐστιν ἡ ἔρις. ῾Η μὲν γὰρ ἅμιλλα καὶ ζῆλος εἰς τὴν τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ τεῦξιν· ἡ δὲ φιλόνεικος ζωὴ μετὰ φθόνου καὶ δυσμενείας γινομένη … οὐ γὰρ ὁ τυχὸν τὴν ἀμείνω τῶν ἐρίδων ἐπαινέσειεν, ἀλλ’ ὁ δυνηθεὶς αὐτὴν τῷ νῷ θεωρῆσαι μεγάλων οὖσαν ἀγαθῶν αἰτίαν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις … τὴν ἀμείνω λέγει [sc. ἔριν]· καὶ αὐτὴν οὖσαν τῆς λογικῆς ψυχῆς ἅμιλλαν σύντονον πρὸς τὸ ἀγαθὸν ὁρῶσαν. Ταύτην οὖν γεννηθῆναι παρὰ τῆς νυκτὸς φησίν. ῎Εστι δὲ ἡ νὺξ θεὸς ὑπὲρ τὸν κόσμον ἀφανὴς τοῖς ὄμμασιν ἡμῶν· καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐρεβεννή, ὥσπερ καὶ αὐτὸν τὸν Δία πατέρα φασὶ τῶν ψυχῶν. ᾿Εκείνη οὖν ἐγέννησε τὴν κρείττω ἔριν, ὡς πάντα ἀνάγουσαν ἐπὶ τὴν ἀφανῆ καὶ θείαν ζωήν. Αἰτία γάρ ἐστι πάντων τῶν ἀοράτων. [218]
There are two kinds of Eris. The one is emulation and rivalry for the achievement of the good. The other is contentious life full of envy and malevolence … Not any ordinary individual would appreciate the best of the Erides but that man who is capable of comprehending with the power of his intellect that she is the cause of great goods in human life … He [the poet] means the best [Eris]; and this refers to the emulating power of the soul that looks eagerly to the good. This, he says, has been born by Night. Night is a divinity beyond the world and invisible to our eyes, and this is why he calls her erebennē (dark), as he calls Zeus the father of the souls. And that [Night] gave birth to the best Eris, for this [the best Eris] leads everything to the invisible and divine life. For it is the cause of all the invisible things.
If for Proklos the comprehension of the second type of Hesiodic Eris requires an elevated mind, deciphering Makrembolites’ intricate references to Hesiod, too, could have been possible only for the most informed members of his audience. Be this as it may, Makrembolites’ familiarity with the Hesiodic good Eris is indicated by his explicit reference to it in another context later in the narrative (9.2.3). [219] Viewed from this perspective the names ῾Υσμίνη and ῾Υσμινίας can be taken as allusions to the heroes’ battle against all the adversities that throughout the story put their temperance and mutual loyalty to the test.
In this respect, it is worth noting that Eustathios of Thessalonike’s comments on the Homeric usage of the word husminē underscore the idea of fortitude that this noun connotes. Especially the phrase isai husminēi kephalai (equal in battle), Eustathios observes, is used to express parity and emulation in the warriors’ manifestation of fortitude and bravery. This phrase, Eustathios notes, is “a rhetorical allegory” (allēgoria rhētorikē). [220] At another point in his commentary, where he connects this formula with comparable Homeric metaphoric expressions, he employs the Hesiodic idea of emulation (agathē eris) to illustrate his explication. [221] The same sense of valor and stamina is also foregrounded in his etymological comments on the word. Husminē, he explains, is related to mimnō (stand fast) and hupomenō (stand firm), thus conveying an idea similar to that denoted by the synonymous adjectives menedēios, menecharmos, and meneptolemos (staunch in battle). [222]
Similarly, the homonymous names of Makrembolites’ protagonists evoke an impression of unanimity in the main characters’ resolution to defeat the temptations they encounter in their way toward the attainment of perfect love. The lovers’ tumultuous but ultimately victorious progress should be, therefore, viewed as an emulation (agathē eris) for the achievement, in due course, of pure love. In this respect, it may be argued that the names Hysmine and Hysminias assume the function of allusive “sememes”—thematic units or inchoate, condensed texts that with their symbolic allusiveness contribute to the structure and development of the whole narrative. [223]
It is of chief interest to us in this connection that the idea of eris recurs in Hysmine and Hysminias with a frequency unparalleled in any other ancient or medieval Greek novel. [224] Not only does antithetical structure play a pivotal organizing role on both the micronarrative and the macronarrative levels of Makrembolites’ story; the word eris or other terms signifying strife and competition are repeated so often that the whole narrative is imbued with an atmosphere of contention.
It may not be fortuitous that eris is employed for the first time in the context of the first encounter of the two protagonists in Aulikomis. After Hysmine suggestively introduces herself as Hysminias’ “namesake virgin” (1.9.1) and most daringly plays with the wine cup while serving her namesake guest, “there was an eris between our hands,” the narrator recollects, “and the hand of the virgin maiden defeated the hand of the herald, the virgin lad” (1.9.3). Eris reappears later in the story at the point where Hysminias attempts to force his erotic desire on Hysmine. Here the terms of the initial eris are inverted: now the boldness of the virgin maiden has been replaced by the fiery audacity of the virgin young man. Hysminias’ aggressive advances and Hysmine’s defense of her virginity are depicted in terms of a battle between the pur (fire) of Eros and the hudōr (water) of Sophrosyne:
καὶ ἦν ἔρις παρ’ ἡμῖν Σωφροσύνης καὶ ῎Ερωτος … ὁ μὲν γὰρ ὡς ἀπὸ γῆς μοι κρατῆρας ἀνῆπτε πυρός, ἡ δ’ ὡς ἐξ οὐρανοῦ τὴν κόρην ἐψέκαζεν.
And there was an eris between Sophrosyne and Eros … the latter, for my sake, was igniting craters of fire from the earth, so to speak, while the former was sprinkling the maiden with water as though from heaven. [225]
The image of the “contest” (agōn) between love (erōs) and temperance (sōphrosunē) looms large also in Hysminias’ account of his struggle to protect his sōphrosunē against the uncontrollable desire of his mistress in the tenth book of the novel. In a passage that reenacts the biblical paradigm of male chastity par excellence, that is, the story of Ioseph and his lecherous Egyptian mistress, Hysminias narrates his adventure in terms that denote an inversion of normalcy: Hysminias, who is now a slave, keeps his moral integrity “free” whereas the free but salacious woman has become a “slave of Eros” (10.6.4–5).
The overarching structural principle of eris is maintained in the narrative not only through such specific instances but primarily, as we have seen, thanks to the emblematic Hesiodic connotations of the names of the two protagonists. However, in Makrembolites, Hesiodic allusions are not confined to the intriguing semantic value of the term husminē. They also mark the description of the personifications in Sosthenes’ garden. Images borrowed from Hesiod’s Works and Days are employed in this description to highlight the close ambivalent interrelationships among Eros, Virtues, and Time. The description of Sophrosyne, Eros’ main rival, ends with the reference to the personified Virtue’s attempt to protect herself against the north wind, holding her modest frock firmly on her body in a way that reminds the narrator of a Hesiodic line:
οὕτως ἡ κόρη σεμνὴ καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα θρασὺ καὶ λεπτὸν τὸ χιτώνιον· “διὰ γάρ τοι παρθενικῆς ἁπαλόχροος οὐ διάησιν αἰθρηγενέτης βορρᾶς.”
(2.4.5) [226]
So modest the maiden is and the wind so vehement and the garment so thin; “for the north wind” that is born in the clear sky “does not blow through the tender-skinned maiden.” [227]
The same allusion recurs later in the explication of the personification of the Month of February: ὁ γάρ τοι χειμὼν διὰ κόρης ἁπαλόχροος οὐ διάησι, τροχαλὸν δὲ γέροντα τίθησιν (4.18.13; “for the cold winter ‘does not blow through the tender-skinned girl but the old man it makes bowl along’”). In Hesiod, this image is employed in connection with a virgin’s inexperience in love, indirectly praised as a manifestation of her temperance. [228]
The connection of the order of the worldly pursuits with the succession of the seasons in the Hesiodic Works and Days offers an intriguing ancient Greek intertext for Makrembolites’ allegorical description of the Months and their interrelationships with the personified Virtues. Exactly like Hesiod’s stereotypical virgin, Hysmine is expected to keep her virginity until her ultimate legitimate union with Hysminias—her namesake lover and rival in the pursuit of elevated Eros. Their experience of “the affairs of Aphrodite” will come in due course, in the form of pure Eros, after their adventures through space and time.

Neoplatonic echoes and the “chain of love”

The heroes’ adventures through space and time and their final achievement of pure Eros bear, I suggest, significant traces of Neoplatonic philosophy. More specifically, the development of the story of Hysmine and Hysminias may be read in connection with Proklos’ ideas about Eros. In eleventh- and twelfth-century Byzantium, Proklos was the most influential Neoplatonist, despite the controversial reception of his philosophy. [229] For Psellos, Proklos represented one of the most admirable Greek philosophers, the “largest haven” of philosophical thought. [230] His impact on the twelfth-century medieval Greek intellectual life was of such importance that one scholar refers to this period in terms of a “Proklosrenaissance.” [231] In their commentaries on Aristotle, Eustratios of Nikaia and Michael of Ephesos, both of whom belonged to the environment of Anna Komnene, drew extensively on Proklan philosophy. [232] A certain Sebastokrator Isaak Komnenos (most probably the son of Alexios I) was the author of three treatises on Providence that were based on works of Proklos now preserved only in Latin translations. [233] A polemical treatise by Nikolaos of Methone against Proklos’ Elements of Theology also attests to the great popularity that this Neoplatonic philosopher enjoyed within certain intellectual circles in mid-twelfth-century Byzantium. Given the impact of Neoplatonism, and especially of Proklan philosophy, on the effervescent intellectual atmosphere of eleventh- and twelfth-century Constantinople, a direct or indirect acquaintance of Makrembolites with the work of this philosopher might well be assumed.
One crucial vestige of Proklan philosophy in Hysmine and Hysminias can be detected already in the first book of the novel. When Hysminias enters Sosthenes’ garden, he expresses his admiration with an exclamation echoing a Homeric verse: χρυσέαν ἐπλέξω μοι τὴν σειράν, Σώσθενες (“Sosthenes, you have contrived a golden chain for me”; 1.4.4). The author avails himself of the rich amphoteroglōssia of this image. On the one hand, this metaphor echoes a well-known literary topos that is also encountered in ekphraseis of works of art. [234] On the other, as suggested by the “chain” of the profound personifications introduced later in the novel, it recalls traditional allegorical interpretations of the Homeric verse. [235]
The chronologically closest example of this exegetical tradition is provided by Psellos, who had already proposed two allegorical readings of the Homeric image. Both these interpretations are considerably influenced by Neoplatonic philosophy. [236] The first one adheres to ancient Greek mythology. Zeus’ golden chain that holds all the gods below him is said to symbolize the gradual elevation of the lowest members of the universe toward the ones above them—an upward movement that culminates in the lifting up to the highest level of divinity. The second version of Psellos’ interpretation is closer to the Christian dogma but at the same time greatly influenced by Neoplatonic demonology. The golden chain, Psellos explains, is associated with God’s uniting the spiritual and the sensible world, the angels and the human beings, so that the former can communicate with the latter and the latter can ascend to the level of the former.
On the micronarrative level of Makrembolites’ novel, the Homeric phrase introduces a detailed ekphrasis of the fountain in Sosthenes’ garden. On the macronarrative level, it functions as an allusion to the subsequent “chain” of the allegorically colored personifications and their pivotal importance for the development and the happy dénouement of the story. In Proklos, the Homeric golden chain is developed into a cosmic symbol and associated with the Neoplatonic notions of philia and sumpatheia thus being transformed into a chain of love. [237] Based on Plotinos’ allegorical interpretation of the Platonic myth of Eros as a son of Poros and Penia, [238] Proklos envisages the chain of love (erōtikē seira) as a metaphysical system that links all the individual Erōtes in one bond. In its turn, this bond joins together heaven and earth, the highest divine order with ordinary human souls. [239] In Proklos, the origin of the chain of love coincides with the cause of beauty. The erōtikē seira elevates everything to this primary origin of existence. [240]
In Makrembolites, the idea of the chain of love may also be subtly alluded to in the ekphrasis of February, the Month completing the circle of the personified Months depicted on the wall of Sosthenes’ garden. February is portrayed as an old man who sits in front of a huge flame that joins heaven and earth in such a way that its origin cannot be determined:
τέλος κρατῆρες πυρὸς ἐγεγράφατο καὶ φλὸξ ὡς ἀπὸ γῆς μέχρις αὐτὸν οὐρανόν, ὡς μηδ’ ἔχειν μαθεῖν εἴτ’ ἐξ αἰθέρος εἰς γῆν ἐκχεῖται τὸ πῦρ εἴτ’ ἀπὸ γῆς ἐξῆπται πρὸς οὐρανόν.
Finally, craters of fire were depicted and along with it a flame extending from earth to heaven itself, so that it was impossible to know whether the fire was emitted from ether to earth or roused from earth to heaven.
Given the fact that in this novel fire is associated with Eros and the depiction of February in Makrembolites alludes to the Hesiodic “affairs of Aphrodite,” which should be kept secret from young girls (4.18.13), a parallelism between the Proklan chain of love and February’s cosmic flame appears very likely. Coming last in the series of the personified Months, February’s fire may symbolize the power of Eros that rules over time and space by linking the lowest parts of the universe with its highest orders.
Furthermore, Hysminias’ initiation and gradual achievement of pure love, performed to a great extent in a ritualistic atmosphere not devoid of mystical and probably Neoplatonic elements, alludes to the climactic unfolding of the Proklan chain of love. Reporting his desire to see Hysmine again, Hysminias puts emphasis on the importance of nous (intellect) for the ultimate experience of love and its capacity to recreate erōs through the power of eyes. Intellect, an important element in (Neo)Platonic philosophy, is, therefore, transformed here into the intermediate link between a human being, Hysminias, and a divine power, Eros:
νοῦς γὰρ ἔρωτι τρωθεὶς ὅλον καθ’ αὑτὸν ἀναπλάττει τὸν ἔρωτα καὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς μετάγει περὶ τὸ πλάσμα καὶ ὅλον ὁρᾶν δοκεῖ τὸ πλαττόμενον.
For, when the intellect is affected by erōs, it itself recreates the erōs in its entirety and focuses the eyes on the creation and believes that it [the intellect] sees the created object.
In his poem on Eros, Manganeios Prodromos, who seems to work in the same literary environment as Eumathios Makrembolites, employs comparable imagery in order to depict the importance of the eyes as the most effective channels through which love invades the souls of men. Eros, Manganeios says in a distinctively Platonic manner, emanates from eyes into eyes without, though, destroying them. On the contrary, it is the hearts of men that he afflicts. [241] The personified Eros brags that even if a man keeps his eyes closed, he, Eros, manages to affect this man’s feelings since mind (logismos), “the sun of the soul’s disk,” will still fulfill the function of the eyes. [242] The intellect of the love-smitten person thus becomes a “painter” capable of portraying the “icon” of the beloved. [243]
In the tradition of the Greek novel, the motif of the gaze as the most powerful communicator of erōs goes back to Achilleus Tatios. There, the eyes of the lovers that are reflected in each other are described as a looking glass that duplicates the image of the mirrored bodies while at the same time channeling the effluence of the beauty into the souls of the lovers. [244] Either through Achilleus Tatios’ mediating influence or directly, Manganeios’ and Makrembolites’ depiction of the gaze as the main vehicle of heterosexual erōs reflects, I believe, the metaphoric imagery of the eyes that Plato employs in his discourse on homosexual love. In Phaedrus, Plato describes the lover as a mirror (katoptron) where the beloved sees himself. He possesses a counter-love (anterōs), Plato says, which is the image (eidōlon) of love. [245]
The motifs of image/reflection (eidōlon) and mirror (katoptron) recur in crucial moments in Makrembolites’ novel and constitute the most effective allusive depiction of an ascending movement from earth to heaven, from Hysminias’ earthly state to Zeus’ highest order. In the second book of the novel, Eros had been described as an image (reflection) of Zeus (Dios eidōlon; 2.7.3). In turn, Hysmine will be later portrayed as a reflection of Eros. In the ritualistic context of one of the many solemn banquets in the novel that takes place at Hysminias’ home in Eurykomis, the two lovers communicate their love metonymically, by drinking from the same cup. [246] Hysminias enjoys this game of sharing the same drink with his beloved. At his sight, “Hysmine smiles most charmingly, thus depicting the whole Eros and all the Graces in her eyes as though in a mirror” (ἐρωτικῶς ἐμειδία [sc. ἡ ῾Υσμίνη] καὶ Χάριτας ὅλας ὡς ἐν κατόπτροις ὑπεζωγράφησε τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς καὶ ὅλον τὸν ῎Ερωτα; 5.11.6). The recurrent metaphors of mirror and image may recall the Proklan principle of likeness (ὁμοιότης). In Proklos’ philosophy, it is by means of likeness that all the components of the world are kept together. [247] In Makrembolites, the chain of love that proceeds from Zeus toward the narrator himself is forged by means of this principle of likeness: Eros is Zeus’ eidōlon (reflection), Hysmine is Eros’ katoptron (mirror), while the similarity between the two young lovers is indicated both by their identical names and their self-presentation as siblings later in the novel (9.15). [248] Viewed from the perspective of the narrator, that is, Hysminias, the last link in this elevated and elevating chain of love is Hysminias himself.
It has been argued that one of the most important innovations of the Proklan theory of erōs is its emphasis on the double direction of love. Proklos’ erōs is not only the Platonic desire of the lower for the higher but also the latter’s care for the former. In contrast to Plato and even to Plotinos, Proklos views erōs “no longer merely [as] an ascending love, but also and primarily [as] a love that descends.” [249] In his commentary on Plato’s Alkibiades I, Proklos underlines this twofold aspect of love: ἄνωθεν οὖν ὁ ἔρως ἀπὸ τῶν νοητῶν μέχρι τῶν ἐγκοσμίων φοιτᾷ πάντα ἐπιστρέφων ἐπὶ τὸ θεῖον κάλλος [250] (“coming from above, from the realm of spiritual entities down to mundane things, Eros brings everything back to divine beauty”). In other words, Proklos discerns two kinds of erōs, the erōs epistreptikos and the erōs pronoētikos, the first being the love of the inferior for what is superior and the latter its reverse. [251]
Makrembolites’ novel is the only Greek example, ancient or Byzantine, of the genre in which Eros is entrusted with the function of the savior of one of the two heroes. [252] In her narration of her adventures in the last book of the novel, Hysmine recalls how the “naked youth” (γυμνὸν μειράκιον), that is, Eros himself, rescued her from the sea (11.14.1). In this way, Eros’ role in the narrated story is not confined to his allegorical presence as a personified abstraction on the wall in Sosthenes’ garden or to his recurrent appearance in Hysminias’ dreams as an anthropomorphic prosōpopoiia inciting the hero’s love for Hysmine. He also assumes the role of an allegorical agent who actively manifests his care for his young protegés, thus functioning as erōs pronoētikos indeed. His descent from above down to the worldly affairs of the two lovers constitutes an important innovative variation of the conventional image of Eros in the genre of the novel.
As my analysis has shown, this innovation may have owed something to a direct or indirect acquaintance of Makrembolites with the Proklan theory of Eros. Clearly, Makrembolites’ Eros bears some characteristics that bring him close to the spiritual atmosphere of Neoplatonic demonology. As Neoplatonic demons, but also not unlike the Platonic Eros of the Symposium, Eros in Hysmine and Hysminias mediates between the gods and the human protagonists. [253] In this respect, and in a more active manner than the other personified powers in the novel, Makrembolites’ Eros exemplifies the dynamics of what Fletcher, in his seminal discussion of allegory, describes as “cosmic systems governing personal fate.” [254]
In Hysmine and Hysminias, the fight between the cosmic elements and the symbolic powers of Zeus and Eros at the beginning, of Eros and Sophrosyne later—symbolically suggested by the heroes’ idiosyncratic names and reenacted by their initial bold advances to each other and their subsequent adventures—is eventually replaced by the ultimate harmonious union of the two lovers. Dominant in this process toward harmony is the power of Eros himself, despite his initial apparently vicious nature. In fact, from the very beginning Eros is represented as an “image of Zeus” and a “neighbor” of the Virtues. The heroes must undergo many ordeals before they experience Eros’ more elevated aspects. That is why Eros is represented at the beginning as an ambivalent force, a tyrant, whose amphoteroglōssia had not been yet deciphered by Hysminias. In a sense, the happy end of the wedding amounts to a victory of the more elevated form of Eros since ultimately neither the hudōr (water) of absolute Sophrosyne nor the pur (fire) of unrestrained Eros prevails. What eventually wins is the mixture of these opposite elements.
The harmonizing fusion of these initially opposing forces had been proleptically alluded to in the depiction of Phronesis on the wall in Sosthenes’ garden. Her crown, it is stressed, was made of precious stones “flashing forth fire and light, full of waters; one would say that water and fire, the opposite elements, had been mixed in the stones, both being pleasant and beautiful” (2.2.1–2). [255] To be sure, the emphasis on the mixture of opposites as a fundamental constituent of ideal aesthetic pleasure is not new with Makrembolites. However, whereas in other ekphraseis this image may be viewed as a mere rhetorical topos, here, in the context of the description of the personified virtues in Hysminias’ narrative, it is invested with intriguing allusiveness. In Proklan ethics, prudence (phronēsis) or temperance (sōphrosunē) is one of the most important constituents of “erotic life” (erōtikos bios). According to Proklos, erōtikos bios is the self-knowledge achieved after one’s victorious battle against the adverse external circumstances and the basest drives of the body. [256] As a matter of fact, this is the final state attained by Hysmine and Hysminias.

Sōphrosunē as sanctioned conceptual framework

May this achievement constitute an additional, philosophically charged dimension of the love story of Makrembolites’ novel? Those members of his Byzantine audience who were familiar with exegeses of profane fictional works as texts of a double-layered meaning would have no difficulty in endorsing such an approach to his text. The overall narrative structure of the novel as well as its ultimate emphasis on the positive aspects of Eros and on Sophrosyne are conducive to a profound reading of the fictional love story of Hysmine and Hysminias.
Makrembolites’ final moralistic resolution of his occasionally overly audacious story is not incongruent with broader medieval Greek discourses on love. In Byzantium, erōs is endorsed to the extent that it is accompanied by sōphrosunē and consummated in the consecrated context of marriage. [257] In the Greek tradition of romantic narrative literature, the ideal of temperate love can be traced back to the ancient novel. There too gamos (marriage) is often promulgated as the perfect happy end of the lovers’ adventures and passionate desire. In most examples of the ancient Greek novel that have come down to us, the consummation of erōs happens in the context of the socially sanctioned relation of conjugality. In his Protheōria on the Aithiopika discussed earlier in this Chapter, Eugenikos singles out the conclusion of the story with a “lawful and virtuous marriage” (γάμοι ἔνθεσμοι καὶ τίμιοι) as one of the most important moral aspects of the novel. [258]
This kind of “happy end” has been seen as an important contribution of the genre of the ancient Greek novel to both the artistic vocabulary of Greek romantic literature and the social imaginary of late antiquity. The conjunction of marriage and romantic love, it has been argued, was a literary invention that did not necessarily reflect reality. [259] More convincing is the opposite view that the emphasis in the ancient Greek novel on sōphrosunē and on the coincidence of the ultimate union of the two protagonists with their gamos is a realistic endorsement of the social and ideological conventions of the era. [260]
As far as Christian ethics is concerned, the promulgation of sōphrosunē as one of the most fundamental constituents of virtuous life, in the sense especially of purity and freedom from carnal appetites, goes back already to the Septuagint. [261] In the Book of Wisdom, sōphrosunē is mentioned along with the other three cardinal virtues (phronēsis, dikaiosunē, andreia) as one of “the most valuable fruits” of Sophia. [262] Paul was the first most influential proponent of the ideal of sōphrosunē in the new era. In his writings, this term is employed in the sense of mental sanity, [263] humility, [264] and particularly of self-control. [265] Albeit in Judeo-Christian tradition sōphrosunē is a virtus feminarum par excellence, in Philon’s influential work On Ioseph, sōphrosunē is exemplified in the story of the chaste Ioseph who escaped the charms of his wanton mistress. This is a topos that, as discussed in the previous Chapter, was repeatedly and creatively reworked in later Byzantine literature. [266]
The concept of sōphrosunē occupies a pivotal position in the moral philosophy of the Cappadocian fathers too, especially of the two Gregorioi. In his speech On Virginity, Gregorios of Nyssa defines this virtue as the avoidance of excess both in ethical and bodily matters. It is associated with purity in the soul or the body. Interestingly, the attainment of sōphrosunē is depicted by means of the narrative schema of an adventurous journey through the tumultuous waves of youth that ends with the arrival at the harbor of God’s Will. [267]
Gregorios of Nazianzos discusses sōphrosunē in a homonymous poem. His On Sōphrosunē echoes the Pauline approach to the issue. Sōphrosunē, Gregorios argues, may be accomplished in the context of conjugality too, although preference is given to celibacy. [268] He also mentions marriage in his poem On Purity as a possible way to accomplish sōphrosunē . [269] In another poem entitled On Virtue, Gregorios adduces a number of examples from pagan tradition to highlight the value of sōphrosunē, among which are stories of a distinctly romantic character. However, as the ultimate paragon of modesty, Gregory extols the Christian martyr Thekla. [270]
Perhaps the most systematic discourse on sōphrosunē is offered by Methodios of Olympos in his Symposium. Methodios’ Symposium reverses the ideological priorities of its Platonic model whose dialogic form it purports to reenact. In place of erōs Methodios promulgates the ideal of virginity. Absolute abstinence from any sexual activity is pronounced here to be the perfect choice for good Christians. Second to this exemplary state is the accomplishment of temperance in the context of marriage, a view that in the dialogue is enthusiastically supported, especially by Theophila. The spiritual foundation of Theophila’s argumentation goes back to Paul’s statement that the father who marries off his daughter does a good thing, but that man who lets his daughter remain a virgin does a better thing. [271] In Methodios, temperance and virginity are connected with the other cardinal virtues. [272] Time and again, Methodios employs marked allegorical topoi to depict sōphrosunē’s spiritual gifts. The Song of Songs constitutes the archetypal allegorical representation of temperance. Here the ambivalent sensual imagery of the biblical Song is subjected to the same principles of allegorical explication that have marked the official reception of this text since early Christianity. [273] For instance, the metaphoric association of the biblical Bride with the image of a lily among thorns is interpreted by Methodios as a symbol of eternal purity. Alternatively, and in a memorable blurring of gender boundaries, Methodios suggests that the Bride may be seen as a metaphor for Christ’s own uncorrupted human body. [274]
Elsewhere, Methodios employs the allegorical potential of the image of adventurous battle to express the importance of one’s victory over carnal passions. This life, he says, may be viewed in terms of a strife between men and demons who obstruct the flight of human souls toward heaven and try to keep them down on earth. [275] Those who are attracted by the Sirens of passions get heavy and fall down. In contrast, the men who escape such temptations are light enough to fly beyond earth and arrive at a paradisiacal space where they can eventually enjoy the fruits of their sōphrosunē and of the other cardinal virtues. [276] The idea of battle is resumed at the very end of the dialogue where a man’s victorious self-control over his appetites is described as more commendable than the mere apathetic practice of sōphrosunē. [277]
Leaving aside self-evident genre and ideological differences, it is easy to discern in Methodios’ account the same deep narrative structure that conditions the allegorical readings of the stories of ancient Greek novels by Byzantine men of letters. This may be captured in the following schematic formula: an initial misfortune or unstable situation ends in a redemptive restoration of harmony after a series of painful ordeals.
In the twelfth century, Manganeios Prodromos, who often presents intriguing ideological and aesthetic similarities with Makrembolites, devoted one of his longest and most intriguing poems to a discussion of sōphrosunē. As its title indicates—“To the Lady Who Is above Physical Pleasure, Who Is Chaste, to the Rhetorical Turtledove: A Speech of Exhortation to Marital Union” [278] —the practical purpose of this poem was to teach a princess the value of moderate sōphrosunē. Apparently the modest lady was adamant in her resolution not to marry again after the death of her first husband. Manganeios Prodromos employs all his rhetorical skills and Christian and pagan erudition to convince her to do the opposite. His argumentation resembles that of Theophila’s in Methodios’ Symposium but with a difference: Manganeios adopts a highly lyrical discourse often influenced by the conventions of pagan erotic literature.
Marriage, Manganeios reminds the chaste lady, has been consecrated by Christ himself, and he mentions the miracle at Kana. Modest, he contends, is not only that woman “who avoids evil pleasures” but also that one who allows herself to be beguiled by lawful charms. [279] When it is not evil, absolute loneliness is associated only with Christ. Christ’s divine solitariness, Manganeios adds in a passage that may echo the allegorical discourse of Physiologos [280] (as well as perhaps a parallel account in Tatios [281] ) is symbolized by the phoenix, “the Indian bird” that lives five hundred years, commits suicide, and eventually resurrects itself out of its ashes. Absolute loneliness does not therefore lead to sōphrosunē proper but to “arrogance, elevation, disdain, conceit, pride, bravado.” [282]
Everything in the universe exists in pairs, Manganeios argues. Nothing remains single. The sun is married to the moon and the sky to the earth. It is out of their coupling that fruits are produced. The human body consists of pairs of elements too. Virtues are also categorized in “a double conjunction: justice, wisdom, courage, chastity,” Manganeios observes, thus indirectly underlining the importance of the cardinal virtues for his theory of moderate chastity. In a series of conventional romantic images, he also reminds the modest lady of the erōs of magnet for iron, of date-palm for another date-palm, and of mercury for gold. [283] Clearly, for Manganeios, not unlike Makrembolites, sōphrosunē evokes a sense of Aristotelian ethical moderation rather than the ascetic ideal of absolute carnal purity. The imagery of cosmic conjugality that Manganeios employs to foreground his understanding of sōphrosunē as the union of opposite elements—wet and dry, sky and earth—finds its parallel in the ultimate resolution of the antithesis between the water of sōphrosunē and the fire of erōs in Makrembolites’ novel.
It seems that theoretical discussions of the moral and universal power of tempered erōs were not uncommon in the circles of Constantinopolitan literati of the era. A comparable theoretical preoccupation with cosmic love is also encountered in Theodoros Prodromos’ work. In his neglected poem Love in Exile, the personified Philia, supposedly expelled from the earthly world by her ungrateful human companion, expatiates on her authority over the whole universe. [284] In a trite philosophical manner, which apparently reflects Prodromos’ ideas, she opposes Empedokles’ theory of the cosmogonic power of Strife (neikos), underscoring at the same time her own omnipotence. [285] Employing the Neoplatonic imagery of the cosmic chain and echoing Pseudo-Dionysios’ theory of heavenly orders, she stresses that it is she who unites “the second incorporeal intellects” and “all the other immaterial legions” both with each other and with God. The visible world is held together by means of her power. The stars and the planets are joined together because of her wisdom and it is through her that the sun is reconciled with the moon. Generally speaking, she unites all the opposites—the fire with the air, the air with the water, the water with the earth. Due to her mediation, the transition from one season to the other is accomplished smoothly. Between the winter and the summer first the spring and then the fall intervene. And in this manner, through the weaving of Hours, “the delicate maidens,” “the comely interweaving of time is performed.” [286] Philia constitutes also the healthy and beautiful human body by keeping the balance of the bodily fluids. She also rules over the cities and the professional exchanges among men. Marriage and attraction between the two sexes is also her work. Here, Theodoros Prodromos, like Manganeios Prodromos, adduces topoi known from romantic literature to highlight Philia’s role as an erotic matchmaker. It is out of love that the sea-serpent leaves the water and comes to the shore to mate with her snake lover, and that “iron’s essence is reduced to a slave to the power of magnet.” [287] Animosity, on the contrary, destroys everything and dissolves marriages.
No direct intertextual dialogue between Prodromos’ short dramatic poem and Makrembolites’ novel can or, for that matter, needs to be established. What is important for our case is that these two more or less contemporary works seem to function in analogous conceptual terms. In both texts, personification plays a pivotal role in the narrative composition, and comparable theories of love are expressed. Philia in Prodromos and Eros in Makrembolites are ascribed parallel ethical and cosmic attributes. They both rule over time and universe, and, thanks to their ultimate reconciliatory function, unite the opposites.
The antithesis between philia and neikos that is foregrounded in Prodromos’ work permeates the narrative structure of Makrembolites’ novel too. But here significant differences may be noticed. In Makrembolites, the idea of neikos acquires a more complex and quasi-Empedoklean dynamic. Contrast and strife, metaphorically developed as the fight between Sophrosyne and the initially immoderate Eros, govern the first part of the novel. It is in the last phase of the story that the two personified forces are mixed to achieve a balanced reconciliation. What began as strife (bad eris) between Hysmine’s sōphrosunē and Hysminias’ erōs—a battle allegorically expressed also through the evocative names of the two protagonists—concludes as a harmonizing emulation (good eris) in matters of love and temperance.
Sanctioned Christian discourses on sōphrosunē—which were often illustrated through the metaphoric imagery of an individual’s victorious journey through a number of obstacles—may have offered Makrembolites a structurally appropriate and ideologically legitimized deep narrative and conceptual pattern. The adversities that Hysmine and Hysminias encounter on their way toward their reunion may be seen in terms of moral fortitude, or even, as an early twelfth-century intellectual like Isaak Komnenos would say, in terms of divine Providence (Pronoia). [288]

Ritual poetics: rites of passage and rites of interpretation [289]

The narrator’s—and protagonist’s—journey toward this happy end may be also perceived as a ritual theōria or, alternatively and in general structural terms more familiar to Makrembolites’ Christian contemporaries, as a kind of pilgrimage. [290] In their pioneering study of pilgrimage, Victor and Edith Turner illustrate the affinity of this religious phenomenon with rites of passage by drawing on an extensive corpus of examples from premodern and modern societies. [291] Pilgrimage, they contend, presents structural characteristics associated with liminality, the middle stage in the performance of rites of passage. Like an initiate who finds himself in the potentially dangerous state of liminality, the pilgrim who embarks upon a religious trip is subject to a number of hazards: robbers, thieves, menacing natural phenomena. By the end of his trip, the pilgrim has undergone important existential transformations that elevate him to a higher level of knowledge. Ordeals, a new understanding of fundamental spiritual and cultural principles, an actual and esoteric transference from a familiar mundane center to a foreign mystical periphery that ultimately becomes a new existential point of reference, the achievement of a new integral identity—all these changes are some of the most striking liminal features of pilgrimage experience. [292] Elemental in the completion of this journey, which is to be understood both in real and metaphoric, existential terms, is the pilgrim’s encounter with symbolic, often artistic presentations of sanctioned spiritual values: “religious buildings, pictorial images, statuary, and sacralized features of the topography.” [293]
In medieval times, it has been suggested, travel was often perceived in symbolic terms as a kind of pilgrimage. [294] Although overly general, such an assumption points to the intricate pervasiveness of ritualistic and homological models of thought in all aspects of medieval life. Movement across geographical space could be, therefore, symbolically understood in terms of existential and spiritual progress in an individual’s passing through different stages in life. To be sure, in the case of Makrembolites’ novel such a symbolic pattern acquires additional marked ritualistic implications. Hysminias is indeed assigned the solemn duty of representing his city as an official herald in Aulikomis on the occasion of the festival of Diasia. [295] Clearly, his functions both as the head of a ritual delegation, a kērux, and as the protagonist of his narrated drama correspond to the ritual schema of pilgrimage.
This ritual instigation of Hysminias’ peregrinations may well have been inspired by the story of Theagenes in Heliodoros’ Aithiopika. In this respect, I find the similarities between the two protagonists particularly striking. They are both unmarried youths of aristocratic origins. Their task as theōroi brings them to a foreign city. There, they meet their beloved and, as a result of their erōs, they embark upon adventurous romances. [296] Here, at least as far as the external details of the plot are concerned, Hysminias departs from his ancient fictional counterpart. However, the deep structure of his narrated story remains similar to that of Theagenes. His ultimate union with Hysmine coincides with the fulfillment of the mysteries of Eros and the Virtues—as these were enigmatically depicted in Sosthenes’ garden—precisely as Theagenes’ marriage with Charikleia coincides with the deciphering of the Delphic oracle and of the mystery of the origins of his beloved.
This narrative pattern is invested with multilayered ritual dimensions, both on the pragmatic and symbolic levels of the narrated story. The reading of Theagenes’ and Hysminias’ initial ceremoniously delegated roles as comparable cases of fictionalization of a specific ritual—that of theōria or pilgrimage—can be further enriched by a view of their functions as protagonists in their respective romances in terms of fictitious reenactments of rites of maturity: after a series of ordeals, at the end of their stories they both emerge as mature individuals who have acquired a new knowledge in basic matters of life. Their status as unmarried young men in connection with the overall transformative effect of the ritual of theōria that they are supposed to perform is conducive to such a reading of their stories. There is, however, a fundamental difference: in Hysminias’ case, the conflation of these two ritual patterns—theōria and maturity—constitutes a double fictionalization, in the sense that his overall story is projected into a pagan ancient past clearly distanced from the Christian present of the author and the audience.
This said, Hysminias’ story may be read as a narrative reenactment of a rite of passage and in terms of ritual poetics. The protagonist’s interpretive engagement with the allegorical figures depicted in Sosthenes’ awe-inspiring garden plays a pivotal role in Makrembolites’ translation of the ritual pattern of theōria into a fictional narrative structure. Unlike Turner and Turner’s descriptive model of pilgrimage, in Makrembolites’ novel these mystical images mark not the end but, rather, the beginning of the young hero’s journey toward maturity.
In Greek literary tradition the association of actual or metaphoric pilgrimage with an inspiring encounter with symbolic pictorial and architectonic representations of spiritual values can be traced back to Pausanias. Now and again, Pausanias invests his accounts of the sacred places that he visited with an air of mystical experience. Occasionally, his description is withheld out of respect for the mystical character of the sacred places he depicts or out of ignorance due to religious prohibitions. In his account of the temple of Eleithyia outside Hermione, for instance, he describes some aspects of the worship of the goddess, noting however that “nobody is supposed to see the image [of the goddess] except, perhaps, for the priestess.” [297] His account of the temple in Eleusis is similarly suspended because a dream prohibited him from giving a full account of what existed within the walls of the sanctuary, as these were things meant to be viewed only by the initiated. [298]
Clearly, Pausanias’ respect for the religious aporrēton is a ritual act. [299] A comparable ritualistic invocation of silence marks the pause of Hysminias’ description of Hysmine as she appeared in his dream in the third book of the novel, that is, in the book following the account of the symbolic personifications in Sosthenes’ garden. Hysminias interrupts his description out of fear and respect for the most powerful Eros, who in a previous dream appeared to him in the form of a formidable king (3.1):
… καὶ εἰ μὴ φρίσσω τὸν ῎Ερωτα καὶ μᾶλλον ἐκ τῆς πείρας αὐτῆς, εἴπον ἂν—ἀλλὰ σιγήσω τὰ ἐφεξῆς, ἵνα μὴ καὶ πάλιν καταβροντήσῃ με τὸ μειράκιον.
And if I were not afraid of Eros, especially after my own experience [in the dream], I would say … but I shall be silent about the rest, lest the young lad [Eros] thunders me down again.
Before this, Kratisthenes had disapprovingly commented on Hysminias’ improper garrulousness while underlining at the same time the ritual significance of silence as opposed to sensational signals of lovesickness. [300]
In rhetorical tradition, aposiōpēsis is ascribed a function similar to that of allegory since they both contribute to the mode of emphasis. [301] In addition to this rhetorical effect and although no specific intertextual associations can or need to be traced here, the fact that Hysminias appeals to this motif in a highly marked setting may have evoked for his Byzantine audience analogous contexts of mystical contemplation. In such discourses, the individual’s progression from mundane world to the experience of the most sacred mysteries of divinity is connected with an accentuation of the power of figural idiom and allegorical signs to eschew the inherent limitations of rational language. Pseudo-Dionysios, for one, begins his Mystical Theology with metaphoric imagery that describes the individual’s gradual transference from perceptible reality to ultimate knowledge that coincides with ultimate silence:
Lead us up beyond unknowing and light
up to the farthest, highest peak
of mystic scripture,
where the mysteries of God’s Word
lie simple, absolute and unchangeable
in the brilliant darkness of a hidden silence. [302]
Hysminias’ own invocation of silence as a sign of respect for Eros’ mysteries, which follows his contemplative encounter with the allegorical paintings in Sosthenes’ garden and Kratisthenes’ ritualistic, almost catechistic, prescriptions, evokes analogous instances of the interconnection between spiritual contemplation and figural language.
Plotinos offers an interesting example of a metaphoric association of the motif of a pilgrim’s contemplation on sacred images with the gradual attainment of ultimate mystical knowledge. This knowledge, Plotinos says, recalls the experience of “the individual who goes into the sanctuary leaving behind the statues in the outer shrine.” [303] Such material representations of the divine, Plotinos adds, are spectacles of secondary significance. More important is the individual’s inner contemplation and achievement of a new way of seeing the One. Plotinos’ metaphor here presupposes an approach to sacred images as symbolic encodings of transcendental truth, a philosophical principle that had a great impact on later, pagan and Christian, theories of icons. Such theoretical discourses specifically on sacred images and on ritual objects in general were founded on an allegorical approach to the world. Since the Divine cannot be expressed through conventional verbal discourse, man may express theological truth by means either of figural language or pictorial and other perceptible representations. It is because of such homological approaches to the expressive potential of linguistic symbolism and pictorial discourse that, as I noted earlier in this Chapter, the rhetorical idea of emphasis is allotted a special prominence in theoretical discussions of the concept of icon.
In Christian tradition, this approach to the world as a potentially transcendental signifying system goes back to the Pauline perception of the world as dim reflection of divine truth but it has also been philosophically refined through the impact of Neoplatonic philosophy. In Proklos, the notions of eikōn and emphasis are employed in similar contexts to denote the harmonious correspondence among elements of different levels of existence that are interconnected through symbolic semantic relations. [304] The same philosopher developed the association of allegorical signification with ritual modes of communication in a characteristically Neoplatonic manner that may be described in terms of ritual poetics, in the sense that this concept has been put forward elsewhere by Dimitrios Yatromanolakis and myself. [305]
In Christian tradition, the correlation between the notions of icon and emphasis finds influential expression in Pseudo-Dionysios, who employs them to refer to the symbolism of ritual actions or objects. [306] For him, perceptible images are symbolic vehicles that elevate men to a mystical contemplation of God. [307] Ioannes Damaskenos, who described the pedagogical function of icons most memorably as “books of the illiterate,” [308] maintained that “images of the built world dimly signify the divine emphases.” [309]
Writing at the turn of the twelfth to the thirteenth century, Nikolaos Messarites composed an extensive ekphrasis of the church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. Occasionally, his description—couched in a flowery, often overly self-indulgent rhetorical style—recalls the traditional Neoplatonic and Christian fusion of ritual language with spiritual contemplation that is also detected in Makrembolites’ work. The transition from the outer space of the church to its interior is first depicted by means of an analogy with the human body and soul. Like someone who, Messarites says, when meeting an agreeable person, gradually shifts his attention from that person’s appearance to his inner qualities, he [Messarites] transfers the focus of his praise from the outer to the inner part of the church. [310] His gradual movement through the sacred space of the church is later described in Neoplatonic terms as a passage from an initial superficial encounter with the sacred images to ultimate mystical knowledge. “For the spirit,” he adds, “is wont to advance from those things which are perceived by the senses, and, led by the lesser faculty, to understand ultimate things and to penetrate to the secret places (ἄδυτα), to which the faculty which leads it is in no way able to come.” [311] Through this kind of mystical engagement with the sacred place upon which he reflects, Messarites is spiritually transferred to the original time and space of the depicted biblical scenes, [312] or to an allegorical rendering of the architectural details of the church. [313]
If Messarites’ rhetorical discourse presents a telling case of ritual contemplation of sacred images and places from the point of view of a late twelfth- to early thirteenth-century Constantinopolitan devotée, an idea of the spiritual response of a contemporary Byzantine pilgrim to examples of sacred art may be gleaned from Ioannes Phokas’ ekphrasis of the Holy Land. [314] Sightseeing and careful observation of the sacred monuments play a pivotal role in the pilgrim’s attempt to retrace the stories of the venerated biblical figures and to reenact them in his imagination. Phokas’ decision to compose this ekphrasis, he tells us, was based on his philanthropic wish to communicate the uniqueness of his pilgrimage experience to other people. He has tried, therefore, to “paint [his journey] through words, and by means of writing to give an account of his sightseeing to the pious ones.” [315] Those who have already visited these sacred places, Phokas admits, may find his literary enterprise inferior to reality, but still they can take some pleasure in “hearing” a description of what they have already seen. Those who never had such an experience themselves will find a fairly accurate description of the Holy Land in his account.
The primary comparative value of Phokas’ work for a synchronic reading of Hysminias’ initiatory encounter with the symbolic and mystical art in Sosthenes’ garden lies in its combination of a refined artistic sensitivity with a genuine, and, we may add, transformative spirituality. Phokas’ ekphrasis conveys in rhetorical terms the author’s memories of his awe-inspiring visits to sacred places. In his description of the temple in Bethlehem, Phokas conveys the feeling of his mystical response to the paintings depicted there. In a characteristically Byzantine manner, his attention is transferred from the actual material works of art to an imaginary encounter with the imitated prototype:
I am exalted by the painting and, in my spirit, I find myself entirely in the cave [of the Nativity] … and I envisage the cave as a palace and the virginal bosom in which the Lord sits as a throne. [316]
Hysminias’ account, too, transcribes his adventurous peregrinations in comparable terms. His travel started as an institutionalized religious expedition but—thanks to the evocative effect of the enigmatic, almost sacred art in Sosthenes’ garden—ended as a transformative journey through the mysteries of life and love.

The poetics of dignity: Neoplatonic rhetoric and elevated narrative

As a work of rhetoric Makrembolites’ novel could accommodate diverse possible meanings and elicit different interpretations from its readers. My insistence on the Neoplatonic elements of the novel is justified not only by their importance for the thematics of the story but also by the specific rhetorical style of Hysmine and Hysminias, which is permeated by the principle of emphasis—a significant principle in Byzantine rhetoric that owes a great deal to Neoplatonism in general and to Proklan philosophy in particular. [317] Going one step further, in the following pages I shall argue that the homological correlation between the rhetorical effect of emphasis and the thematic structure of Makrembolites’ novel may be also invested with additional allusions to Neoplatonic principles of literary theory and composition. Hysmine and Hysminias, supposedly a rhetorical transcription of the hero’s ineffable happiness for his union with his beloved (11.20.1), is governed by a whole group of gods. This is the only novel in Greek tradition that, in addition to Eros, is inhabited by Zeus, Apollo, Hermes, and most unexpectedly for the conventions of the genre, Ares. Is this a mere coincidence?
The construction of the novel shows that patterned relationships exist among these gods. Zeus and Apollo constitute one pair, Hermes and Ares another. The members of the first pair are associated with virginity and pure Eros. Zeus is presented as the main protector of virginity and the origin of Eros (῎Ερως ὁ Διὸς παῖς ἐκστρατεύει κατὰ πατρός; 10.12.4). Zeus is also connected with daphnē, the sacred plant of Apollo and a recurrent symbol of sophrosunē in the novel. [318] Furthermore, it is during Zeus’ feast, Diasia, that the two lovers meet for the first time. Apollo, in his turn, is connected with the harmonious end of the heroes’ adventures. The two lovers are reunited during a feast in his honor, which, in this way, is also transformed into a feast of pure Eros.
Hermes and Ares are connected to each other through parallel metanarrative functions in the crucial context of the allegorical personifications depicted in Sosthenes’ garden. Their interrelationship is indicated by an unusual interchangeability of the characteristics traditionally attributed to them. In the description of Ischys (Fortitude), the weapon of the Virtue is paradoxically called grapheion Areōs (‘a stilus of Ares’; 2.3.3). Here, Ares is metaphorically connected with an instrument of writing that would be normally associated with Hermes, the god of rhetoric. The defamiliarizing effect of this metaphor is later reinforced by a subtle variation of it, which is based on the epic connotations of the heroine’s name and its indirect associations with the god of war (husminē: fight). In a passionate confirmation of his love, Hysminias confesses to his beloved:
῾Υσμίνη, σὲ μόνην δεσπότιν ἐξ ἔρωτος κέκτημαι· … σῇ γραφίδι δουλογραφοῦμαι καὶ δοῦλος ῎Ερωτος γίνομαι.
Hysmine, only you out of love I have as my mistress; … I have been enlisted as a slave of your graphis (stilus) and have become a slave of Eros.
The word graphis here echoes the word grapheion that had been used in connection with Ares, the god of war, and suggests the idea that the narrator’s story is the transcription of his erōs for Hysmine, who is acknowledged, therefore, as the ultimate origin of his narrating and narrated drama. [319]
Another reversal of traditional mythological symbolism balances the aforementioned unexpected association of Ares with the instrument of writing and corroborates its metanarrative allusions to the composition of the novel itself: in the discussion of the personifications of the Months and their possible relation to Eros, Kratisthenes calls the painter’s brush (graphis) Hermou akontion (‘Hermes’ javeline’), thus associating Hermes with an instrument of war normally connected with Ares (4.20.3). In this case, too, the ambivalence of the word graphis—which can mean both ‘pen’ and ‘a painter’s brush’— [320] but also the whole passage, which functions as an indirect comment on the riddling character of the painting, invest this metaphor with complex metanarrative connotations. The interchangeability of the emblematic features of the god of rhetoric (Hermes) and the god of war (Ares) occurs therefore in contexts heavily charged with significant self-referential allusions to the composition of the novel and to its rhetorical character. If the connection with writing is not unexpected in the case of Hermes, in the case of Ares such an association is exceptionally idiosyncratic.
Proklos’ theory of literature, as expounded mainly in his essay on poetic art included in his commentary on Plato’s Republic, [321] may constitute an intertextual parallel to several of Makrembolites’ idiosyncratic metanarrative allusions. The same essay may shed some light on the composition of Hysmine and Hysminias as a narrative governed by the presence of an unusually great number of gods. Proklos bases his theory of literature on his general philosophical presupposition of two realms of being, the universal and the particular. The work of the particular poet should imitate the work of the universal poet, who is identified with Apollo. The universal poet is an associate of the universal statesman, Zeus, who superintends the cosmic war of the stronger elements against the weaker ones. Zeus’ general is his son Ares:
τὸν κοσμικὸν πόλεμον τῷ πατρὶ συνδιακοσμῶν [sc. ῎Αρης] καὶ τὰ ἀμείνω κρατεῖν ἀεὶ τῶν χειρόνων παρασκευάζων … ὁ στρατηγὸς ὁ μέγιστος … πολέμων προστάτης θεὸς καὶ ἀνεγείρων πάντα πρὸς τὴν ἐναντίωσιν τὴν κοσμικήν. [322]
[Ares] arranging the cosmic war in collaboration with his father and taking care that always the best parts win over the worst … the greatest general … the god who oversees the war and rouses everything toward the cosmic strife.
It is the responsibility of the universal poet to transform the cosmic war into a harmony where virtue (aretē) prevails over evil (kakia) and the elements of the whole universe are arranged into a single harmonious rhythm. [323] In Proklos’ theoretical model, Hermes undertakes the task of the universal orator, “the creator of persuasion” (peithous dēmiourgos), [324] and persuades everybody and everything in the universe to live in accordance with the will of Zeus, the universal statesman. [325]
In Hysmine and Hysminias, the hierarchically leading role of Zeus is observed throughout the story. Even the main protagonist among the divine powers of the story—Eros—is Zeus’ son and eidōlon (image). The function of Hermes as an orator is unequivocal too, while Ares’ presence in the novel is not confined to his metaphorical association with “stilus”—the instrument of writing—discussed above but is extended to the emblematic names of the heroes and the significance of contrast and antithesis in the development of the whole story. As for Apollo, his pivotal role in the construction of the novel is indicated first by the fact that it is during the feast in his honor that the two lovers are reunited after their adventures and, second, by a number of references to his connection with the diēgēma (narrative) of the two lovers. After the reunion of the two lovers during Apollo’s feast, all the people knew the diēgēma about the young lovers and glorified Apollo for his benevolent contribution to the happy resolution of the story. [326] Later in the same book, the priest convinces the shy Hysmine to narrate her own story so that the “crescent will become all-cyclical” and the narrative “full-lit.” [327] He encourages the reluctant heroine to “offer her drama as a sacrifice to Apollo so that the diēgēma will be eternal and the wondrous story that Apollo miraculously contrived through his prophetic power will not perish” (τὸ κατὰ σὲ δρᾶμα θύσεις ᾿Απόλλωνι, ἵν’ εἴη τὸ διήγημα αἰωνίζον καὶ μὴ φθίνον τὸ τερατούργημα, ὃ μέγας ᾿Απόλλων οὕτω καινῶς ἐφ’ ὑμῖν φοιβάζων τερατουργεῖ, 11.12.2). [328]
At the very end of the novel, the narrator invokes the divine powers that represent the elements of the universe—Zeus (heaven), Poseidon (sea), Gaia (earth)—and asks them to eternalize his story. Eventually, however, it is the power of Hermes, the universal orator, who undertakes this task. [329] The elements keep fighting against each other and against Eros under, of course, the hierarchical precedence of Zeus. In fact, it was Eros who instigated this fight in the story of Hysminias and, with the help of Apollo and the supervision of his omnipotent father Zeus, brought it to an harmonious end, now eternalized in the art of rhetoric through Hermes’ mediatory agency. It may not be without some importance for our exploration of Makrembolites’ possible allusions to Neoplatonic philosophy that in Proklos’ theory of literary creation Hermes is assigned the role of the dēmēgoros whom the gods use in order to communicate and negotiate with each other. [330]
I wish to repeat here that a possible reading of Hysmine and Hysminias as a faithful translation of Neoplatonic philosophical principles into a consistent allegorical narrative would be no more than an oversimplification. Such an approach to Makrembolites’ novel would not do justice to its complexities and its possible allusions to contexts other than the spiritual doctrines of Neoplatonism, such as the representation of the Emperor’s image in mid-twelfth century Byzantium. [331] The aim of my analysis of the Neoplatonic allusions of the novel has been to foreground the multivalence of its semantic levels and the intricate character of the allegorical modulations of riddle and personification employed by the author. This exploration of the Neoplatonic associations of Makrembolites’ text arises from the numerous relevant thematic motifs incorporated in the story and the pervasiveness of the principle of emphasis in its composition. As I illustrated earlier in this Chapter, emphasis refers both to rhetorical discourse and to predominantly Neoplatonic philosophical theories of semantics.
In Makrembolites’ novel, emphasis is achieved through a consistent interconnection of homological discursive modes and conceptual categories. Emphasis is conducive to the Idea of Dignity that dominates the whole work. The Idea of Dignity, as illustrated by Hermogenes and developed by later rhetoricians, is connected to a number of issues (ennoiai), most of which have informed Makrembolites’ thematics too. Matters that have to do with the seasons or the movement of the universe, for instance, or with “divine qualities exemplified by men” such as the virtues of justice and temperance, or with “life in general” belong, according to Hermogenes, to the realm of Dignity. [332]
In Makrembolites, some of the topics traditionally associated with the Idea of Dignity are explored by Hysminias and Kratisthenes in the context of their theoretical contemplation on the personified figures and further intertwined with the development of the protagonists’ love story, which is indeed narrated in terms of Dignity. It may not be fortuitous that the homological correspondence between the development of the two protagonists’ love story and the cyclical movement of time, the harmonious mixture of opposite cosmic elements, and the functions of divine powers recall elevated philosophical ideas most explicitly expounded in Proklos’ commentaries on Plato. Proklos’ philosophical system is based on the idea of symbolic correlations among hierarchically structured homological levels of existence, starting from the lowest level of human life and proceeding to the highest level of communication with the divine. In an interesting passage from his commentary on Plato’s Republic, Proklos interconnects the functions of four gods (Kronos, Ares, Zeus, and Aphrodite) with the succession of the seasons (winter, summer, spring, fall, respectively) and the circle of natural life. Hermes is the god who ensures the harmonious correspondence of the analogies among all the seasons and the gods. Significantly, the word that Proklos employs to describe Hermes’ harmonizing function, logos, is charged with a marked Neoplatonic semantic polyvalence, while also preserving its allusions to the traditional association of this god with rhetoric, the art of logos. Elsewhere Proklos stresses that ideal rhetorical style is the discursive equivalent of universal order. [333] In Proklos, the unification of opposites is further developed into a theory of the achievement of the ideal harmonious ethical state metaphorically described in terms of a gamos (marriage). [334] Sikeliotes’ and the anonymous Christian rhetorician’s works on rhetoric discussed at the beginning of this Chapter, both influenced by Neoplatonic philosophy, provide appropriate theoretical frameworks for an analysis of Makrembolites’ manipulation of established rhetorical principles. Both Sikeliotes and the anonymous author of the Epitome of Rhetoric advance homological correspondences between rhetoric and broader philosophical discourses on ethical issues, and connect virtues of speech with moral virtues. [335] The anonymous writer, in particular, expounds this interrelationship at some length. In his view, prudence and all the other cardinal virtues are important for the articulation of “dignified discourse” (ἡ δὲ φρόνησις ἀποσεμνύνει τὸν λόγον). [336] In an interesting shift of the focus of his discussion from rhetoric to ethics, he dwells on the Platonic tripartite structure of the soul, that is, on its reflective, passionate, and appetitive parts. His main argument should be repeated here: the work of prudence, he contends, which is associated with the first part of the soul, is to activate strategies against opposing powers and to defend the virtues against the vices; temperance, which belongs to the soul’s second part, teaches an apathetic attitude to the desires that generate irrational fantasies; fortitude, which is connected to the third part of the soul, endows men with the strength to face vicissitudes and fight wars. Finally, justice is responsible for the attainment of congruity and harmony among the soul’s different parts. [337]
What is of particular interest here is not only the interconnection of rhetorical theory and ethics but also the depiction of the functions of the cardinal virtues in the manner of what I would call “inchoate narrativization.” Each virtue, in other words, is transformed into a personified agent in a condensed narrative that involves a happy end resulting either from a victory over opposing elements—as is the case with prudence, temperance, fortitude—or from the stabilization of a balanced condition, which is the case with justice.
It is clear that in Makrembolites’ novel, too, the personified cardinal virtues function as programmatic prolepses of the story’s positive resolution, and affect its overall rhetorical structure. The conventional allegorical functions of the virtues are embodied by the two main protagonists whose love story unfolds as an allegorical narrative emphasis, that is, allusive manifestation, of these virtues’ harmonizing power. Prudence, temperance, and fortitude are exemplified by Hysmine’s and Hysminias’ victorious encounter with a number of vicissitudes, while the final achievement of a harmonious equilibrium between passion (erōs) and self-control (sōphrosunē) reenacts the function of the cardinal virtue of justice.
My investigation into Makrembolites’ probable affinities with Neoplatonism, one of the most influential philosophical trends among the intellectuals of eleventh- and twelfth-century Constantinople, may be of some importance for the determination, if not of the exact date, at least of the cultural environment in which Makrembolites produced his work. I see two probable intellectual contexts for his writing: either the literary and philosophical circle round Anna Komnene, notably Eustratios of Nikaia and Michael of Ephesos, who produced commentaries on Aristotle and drew extensively on Neoplatonic philosophy, or the intellectual circle against which Nikolaos of Methone composed his treatise in the late 1150’s. [338] One of the members of this last group was most probably Nikephoros Basilakes. [339] As the work of Nikolaos of Methone indicates, this second circle was involved in a particularly intensive study of Neoplatonism, especially of Proklos. Although the evidence is far from conclusive, I would see a date in the 1140s-1150s as the most likely chronological context for the composition of Hysmine and Hysminias—1143, the year when Manuel I Komnenos took office, being a terminus post quem. This date may allow for the similarities between Makrembolites and Nikephoros Basilakes discussed in Chapter Two and for Makrembolites’ possible allusions to the image of the Emperor Manuel I in the art and literature of the era. [340]

Profound lyricism and sensual imagery: the Song of Songs as narrative substructure in Drosilla and Charikles

Allegorical modulations in the Komnenian novel also assume the form of allusions to biblical texts. This substratum of subtle references to Christian tradition is combined with the more conspicuous ancient Greek framework in which the love story of the two protagonists unfolds. The coexistence of these heterogeneous elements enhances the amphoteroglōssia of the Komnenian novels, especially of the novels of Makrembolites and Eugeneianos, and underlines their quality as possible liminal discourses (metaxu kai metaichmioi logoi).
The literary and broader cultural context that enabled the appreciation and deciphering of this form of allegorical modulations in the Komnenian novels was conditioned by the dominance of Greek rhetorical tradition, on the one hand, and of Christian aesthetics, on the other. By and large, this fusion of such apparently disparate elements has been ignored in the studies of the Komnenian novels. The lack of any close and systematic exploration of this discursive and ideological complexity of the Komnenian novels has had two main, diametrically opposite, consequences for the study of these texts. It has either made it difficult for the majority of scholars to recognize the importance of allegorical modulations in them, or has led to interpretive oversimplifications. [341]
My analysis of the allusions to the Bible in the Komnenian novel will focus on Drosilla and Charikles. [342] More specifically, I shall explore the ways in which Eugeneianos invests his narrative with the sensuous and mystical language of the Song of Songs. Not unlike my examination of the allegorical modulations in Hysmine and Hysminias, my exploration of Eugeneianos’ allusions to the Bible does not aim at the reconstruction of an alleged single original meaning of his novel; rather it investigates its multilayered amphoteroglōssia. Like the other Komnenian novels, Drosilla and Charikles was greatly influenced by the art of rhetoric. Any attempt at the imposition of a single allegorical meaning on this fictional work, therefore, would be incompatible with the complexity of its discourse and the multifaceted character of its rhetoricity.
Eugeneianos’ use of the ambiguous language of the Song of Songs and his occasional subtle appropriation of the language of other biblical texts enabled him to invest his story with allegorical allusiveness and, we may assume, to elicit corresponding reactions from the most informed members of his contemporary Christian audience. As my analysis of the allegorizations of both ancient and medieval Greek literature has shown, fictional narrative was often viewed by the Byzantines as a discourse consisting of two possible semantic layers. The medieval Greeks who endorsed or were familiar with such an approach to this kind of literature would have no difficulty in detecting some allegorical modulations in Eugeneianos’ novel as well.
Traditional exegeses of the Canticle had attempted to bridge the gap between its two supposed semantic layers—the apparent and the hidden—without, however, totally driving out its pervading eroticism. Authoritative interpretations of the Song of Songs did not condemn its conspicuous sensuality but attempted to assimilate it into an allegorical, spiritual discourse. Gregorios of Nyssa, and before him Origenes, referred time and again to the sensual vocabulary of the text. In their attempt to articulate a profound reading of the Canticle, they even occasionally adopted a comparable sensuous style. Commenting on the luscious images of kissing and the metaphorical description of the Beloved’s breasts as sweeter than wine, Gregorios indulges in a physiological account of the act of kissing. Kissing, he says, is a tactile function that involves the contact of the lips. [343]
Elsewhere, Gregorios compared carnal love to spiritual erōs in similar terms. Like physical love, he says, “which affects neither infants because infancy is not liable to passions,” nor old men since “it is unlikely to see people exhausted of extreme age to succumb to such passions,” the erōs of divine beauty does not concern those who are spiritually either infantile or senile. [344] Although such bodily associations are ultimately elevated to spiritual symbols, a certain, almost voyeuristic, indulgence in the sensual imagery of the Song of Songs permeates Gregorios of Nyssa’s interpretation. For instance, in his explication of the passage 1.13 of the Canticle [345] he begins his argumentation with a relatively detailed reference to the erotic habits of mundane women. Although he hastens to dissociate himself from such secular lore by attributing it to others familiar with these matters (phasin), his account is not devoid of a certain softness that verges on sensuality. The women who love ornaments, he says, are reported to attract their partners not only with external accessories; they make their bodies more pleasant also by perfuming their clothes. In this way, the aromatic essences of the perfumes hidden inside the dresses are fused with the emanations of the women’s bodies. [346]
In the same spirit, in his own verse commentary on the Song of Songs, Psellos does not deny the erotic character of the diction of this work either, although, as expected, he also invests it with mystical profundity. By adopting the “dignified scheme of wedding,” the Song, Psellos contends, depicts the perfection of the human soul. [347] The Groom represents Christ himself and the Bride stands for the human soul that is in love with Christ. [348] Occasionally, in his account of the Canticle’s imagery, Psellos, not unlike Gregorios of Nyssa, is driven into almost sensual diversions. Commenting on passage 1.13 of the Canticle, he observes that since in this text the soul has assumed womanly features and is portrayed as a Bride-to-be, it is reasonable that she employs a feminine discourse. Psellos describes her as excited with raving erotic passion (σφαδάζουσα ἐξ ᾿ ἐρωτοληψίας). [349] In expressing her love for the Groom, she adopts, therefore, a style pertinent to women. But, Psellos adds in overly realistic terms that recall Gregorios’ argumentation, whereas other women perfume their clothes in order to incite the warmest possible carnal erōs, the Bride of the Song honors the Groom as “her only and most aromatic fragrance.” [350]
Gregorios of Nyssa and Psellos deal also with the Song’s discursive ambiguity by depicting it in terms familiar from secular literary tradition. In his commentary, Gregorios of Nyssa describes the Canticle as a kind of wedding song that hides a profound, mystical meaning (ἐπιθαλάμιός τίς ἐστι διασκευή), [351] or a drama that has the character of a wedding song (ἐπιθαλάμιον δρᾶμα). [352] Psellos, too, adopts similar terminology to characterize the ambiguous genre features of the Song. For him, the Canticle is dramatic in character: it is a dramatourgia. [353] Origenes had already defined this text as an epithalamium composed in dramatic form. His Commentary on the Canticle opens with the following genre description:
This little book is an epithalamium, that is a nuptial song, which it seems to me that Solomon wrote in a dramatic form, and sang after the fashion of a bride to her bridegroom, who is the word of God, burning with celestial love. [354]
Clearly, the commentators’ adoption of pagan literary terminology attests to their bewilderment at the genre and the thematic idiosyncracy of the Song. At times, the consternation caused by the ambiguity of the language and the theme of the Song led to its unequivocal condemnation. Such was the case of Theodoros of Mopsuestia, who viewed this text as an insulting erotic poem devoid of any mystical connotations. In Theodoros’ opinion, this “obscene” song had to be removed from the canon of holy texts. [355]
Even so, the emphasis of established orthodox exegeses on the spirituality of the erotic and dramatic character of this work allowed its occasional reception as a sanctioned model of love poetry. It is from this perspective that one should view the reinscription of passages of the Song in works of secular Byzantine literature such as epithalamia, encomia, or the novel. [356] The theme, the dialogic form, and the overall evocative atmosphere of the Song invested it with a discursive flexibility that made it susceptible of diverse literary manipulations. Especially illuminating is its description by Psellos. In addition to its probable reference to Gregorios of Nyssa’s exegesis, dramatourgia, the term that Psellos employs to describe the Song, may have evoked allusions to the marked word drama, which, as discussed in the previous Chapter, was also used in connection with the genre of the novel.
The argument should not be forced any further. What is of importance for my discussion here is that major commentators of the Song acknowledge its genre and thematic double-tonguedness. It is precisely this ambivalence, in combination with the Song’s constructed mysticism, that enabled its function as an authorized intertext of a number of examples of secular medieval Greek literature.
Similar is the literary appropriation of the Song in the Western Middle Ages. Peter Dronke has shown how the eroticism, the associational structure, and the dreamlike atmosphere of the poem informed the themes and style of Western medieval lyric poetry. Particularly interesting is the case of the poem Iam dulcis amica venito, which has been preserved as a devotional conductus. According to Dronke, at the beginning this text, which draws heavily on the Song of Songs, had a rather secular, not sacred function. [357]
In Western Europe the philosophical reception and literary exploitation of the Canticle experienced a renewed interest in the twelfth century. [358] This reappraisal of the aesthetic and spiritual value of the Song was accompanied by a significant change in the sensitivity of religious language. A basic characteristic of this new sensitivity was a remarkable “feminization.” [359] In the same period, commentators of the Canticle placed emphasis on the emotive identification of their audience with the feminine protagonist of the Song. [360] In an interesting twelfth-century French allegorical exegesis of the Canticle, the confluence of mystical and erotic language is exceptionally conspicuous. This commentary is dedicated to a woman and described as a romance in which the two lovers of the Song employ marked expressions of endearment. [361]
Traditional scholarship has seen Drosilla and Charikles as a close imitation of Prodromos’ novel, thus diminishing the importance of both Eugeneianos’ debts to other authors and his own originality. [362] Only some recent studies have attempted to balance this one-sided criticism by pointing to the coexistence of several simultaneous literary allusions in Drosilla and Dosikles. [363] More often than not, however, their attempt is exhausted in a mere enumeration of sources without an overall critical reappraisal of the work. As a result of such an approach, one gets the impression that Eugeneianos’ novel is a whimsical conglomeration of quotations from heterogeneous texts lacking any unifying structural and aesthetic framework. [364]
I discern two main levels on which quotations and literary allusions functioned in medieval Greek literature. First is the important aesthetic pleasure that, as Hunger has pointed out, ensues from “[the] identification [of allusions] on the part of the audience … [as] a kind of round game.” [365] Especially in works like the Byzantine novels, whose originality was assessed on the basis of a successful reworking of traditional topoi, literary allusions made the act of reading (or listening) a particularly dynamic process. The identification of these allusions and, more importantly, the consequent deciphering of their possible significance in their specific literary context acquired the character of a literary game that resembled the act of riddle posing and answering.
Going one step further, I would contend that the primary aesthetic value of the reinscription of quotations from classical or biblical texts into medieval Greek literature consisted in the particular expectations that this literary grafting could incite among the contemporary Byzantine audience. By evoking authoritative intertexts of cultural legacy, the use of quotations from sanctioned texts of the classical and biblical traditions in secular medieval Greek literature contributed to the amphoteroglōssia of this literature. For instance, the appropriation of thematic or formal elements from the Song of Songs by medieval Greek or Western European authors of secular literature invested their works with an effective ambiguity that is often parallel to that of the biblical archetype. [366] Biblical quotations in secular literary contexts functioned as tropical modulations that informed a specific text with specific connotations. In other words, the same biblical allusion, even if a worn-out formula, would be invested with different semantic potentials in different literary contexts. This was particularly true in the case of liminal fictional discourses—in the sense “liminal” is employed in Tzetzes’ theoretical treatment of allegorization—such as the Komnenian novels, especially Hysmine and Hysminias and Drosilla and Charikles, where pagan antiquity constituted only one level of signification.
Implicit in Drosilla and Charikles is the comparison of the two protagonists with the couple of the Song of Songs. This parallelism is suggested by some covert but clear references to the Song itself, to other biblical texts, or to motifs familiar from the tradition of the Greek novel. The latter may have been received by the Christian Byzantine public as supplementary to the biblical allusions. In the fourth book of the novel where Kleinias (the son of the Parthian king Kratylos who has arrested the two protagonists) falls in love with Drosilla, the author manages to eschew a further complication of the already ill-fated heroine’s life by resorting to an old motif. Charikles, who happens to hear Kleinias’ lonely love song (4.156–219), purports to be the brother of the heroine and promises to the young barbarian that he will act as a mediator between his alleged sister and his love-smitten master. This motif had been inherited from Heliodoros and further developed by Makrembolites and Prodromos as well. In Eugeneianos, the use of this motif and the words with which Charikles describes his relation to Drosilla (ἀδελφῆς ἐμῆς τῆς παρθένου “of my virgin sister”; 4.223) do not carry here the same connotations that they would have in Heliodoros’ text. As discussed in the pages that follow, the context of Charikles’ promise recalls specific passages from the biblical Song, where the male protagonist calls his beloved “my sister bride” (ἀδελφή μου νύμφη). [367]
In Heliodoros, the motif is employed at a similar juncture in the course of the story. When the barbarian leader, Thyamis, who has arrested the young couple, asks Charikleia, the heroine, to marry him, she does not disclose her real relationship with Theagenes. She pretends to be Theagenes’ sister, in order to avert Thyamis’ anger against her beloved, and promises to marry her barbarian suitor at an “opportune” time. [368] In Makrembolites, it is Hysmine who lies to her mistress, Rhodope, that Hysminias is her brother. The whole setting here is different from that in Heliodoros. The young couple has been just reunited at Rhodope’s house after a long and adventurous separation. But their torments have not come to an end yet. Hysminias is the slave of a guest at Rhodope’s house. Rhodope falls in love with him. Hysmine identifies herself as Hysminias’ sister, and Rhodope uses her as a messenger of her passionate love to Hysminias (9.14–16). Theodoros Prodromos offers his own version of the motif. Gobryas, the barbarian general who has arrested the young couple, falls in love with Rhodanthe. After his failed attempt to convince his commander Mistylos to present him with the young captive woman in recognition of his services, and after his failed attempt to rape Rhodanthe, Gobryas asks for Dosikles’ mediation, whom he takes as the heroine’s brother because of the resemblance he notices between the two young lovers. Dosikles does not reveal the truth. Instead, he manipulates this misunderstanding for his benefit. He promises that he will marry his “sister” off to Gobryas (3.150–404).
Eugeneianos does not adhere slavishly to this traditional motif. He elaborates it in an innovative way and invests it with intriguing allusions to the biblical Song of Songs. Charikles’ consoling of Kleinias takes the form of an apparently intimate confession aimed at forging a strong “male bonding” between the hero and his barbarian master. Charikles expresses his sympathy for Kleinias by narrating him a fabricated version of his own alleged encounter with his beloved, whose name, of course, is not revealed since she is no other than a fictitious alter ego of Drosilla. This parallelism is clearly illustrated through Charikles’ indirect comparison of his imagined adventure with his master’s love for his alleged sister (4.223–227).
The fictitious meeting of Charikles with his imaginary beloved takes place in a dreamlike setting that recalls the overall atmosphere as well as certain specific details of the Song of Songs. By employing this allusive imagery, Eugeneianos constructs one of the most lyrical and evocative scenes in his novel. The very beginning of Charikles’ description echoes the dialogue between the Bride and the Bridegroom in the second chapter of the Song of Songs. Charikles tells Kleinias that he first saw his beloved in a paradisiacal garden, while he was leaning over its fence. The diction he employs to express this detail [369] recalls the way in which the Bride in the Song describes the Bridegroom’s peeping out of a window to see her. [370] The image of Charikles’ imagined beloved is ethereal. Dew (drosos) drops from her body on the basil-plants and “she sprinkles balsam-plants, lotuses, hyacinths, white lilies, narcissi, and crocuses with the flowing fragrance of roses.” [371] In this context, “dew” assumes the function of an allusive metonymy substituting for the fictional woman from whose body it drops. Drosos, the Greek word for “dew,” indirectly identifies this imaginary female figure with Drosilla, Charikles’ real beloved.
The enumeration of the different flowers and plants of the garden does not constitute a mere conglomeration of insignificant details but functions as an evocative accumulation of subtle allusions to the biblical Song and its established allegorizations. [372] The reference to crocus, for instance, far from being a mere rhetorical detail, might have evoked for the erudite audience of the novel memories from authoritative allegorical interpretations of the Canticle like, for instance, the exegesis by Gregorios of Nyssa. According to Gregorios’ explication, the mention of crocus in the Song (4.14) is charged with mystical connotations:
φασὶ μὲν οὖν οἱ τὴν δύναμιν τοῦ ἄνθους τούτου κατανοήσαντες, μέσως ἔχειν ψύξεώς τε καὶ θερμότητος, καὶ τῷ φεύγειν τὴν ἐφ’ ἑκάτερον ἀμετρίαν παρηγορικὴν τῶν ὀδυνῶν ἔχει τὴν δύναμιν, ὡς διὰ τούτου τάχα τὸν περὶ τῆς ἀρετῆς ἡμῖν λόγον φιλοσοφεῖν τῷ αἰνίγματι, διότι πᾶσα ἀρετὴ δύο κακιῶν ἐστι μέση, τῆς τε ἐλλείψεως τοῦ καλοῦ καὶ τῆς ὑπερπτώσεως. Οἷον τὴν ἀνδρείαν ἢ τὴν ἐλευθερίαν φασί, τὴν μὲν δειλίας τε καὶ θρασύτητος, τὴν δὲ μικρολογίας τε καὶ ἀσωτίας ἐν μέσῳ θεωρεῖσθαι. [373]
Those who have realized the power of this flower say that it finds itself between coldness and warmth and, by evading the excess of either of these qualities, it has the power to offer consolation from the pains and that through this it [the Song] expresses enigmatically to us a philosophical discourse on virtue since every virtue is located in the middle between two vices, between, that is, the lack and the overflow of good. As, for instance, fortitude or freedom; the former, they maintain, is to be viewed as located in the middle between timidity and over-boldness whereas the latter between pettiness and dissipation.
If this specific flower is construed here as an allegorical representation of virtue, at another point of his exegesis, Gregorios associates the four cardinal virtues with the fragrance emanating from the body of the Bride. [374] An echo of this image may be detected in Charikles’ reference to the drosos that drops from the body of the fictitious alter ego of Drosilla on the flowers of the paradisiacal garden.
Charikles’ description of the garden is followed by his account of an invented dialogue that he was supposed to have had with the imagined ethereal young woman. This conversation, replete with sensual innuendos couched in an elevated lyrical diction, may be read as a projection of the hero’s erotic fantasies onto the ideal realm of a fiction that reenacts—on an imaginary level—what the characters of other novels live in their dreams [375] or, more significantly, what the couple of the Song of Songs, the sanctioned biblical paradigm of profound lyricism, experience. The hero asks the beautiful woman to open the door of her garden, [376] and she consents to his request. She invites him into her garden but, instead of fruits, she offers him her breasts:
κἂν μῆλον οὐκ ὥριμον ἐν τῷ κηπίῳ,
τὸ στέρνον ἡμῶν ἀντὶ μήλου προσδέχου·
εἴ σοι δοκεῖ, δύστηνε, συγκύψας φάγε·
κἂν μὴ πέπειρος βότρυς ἀναδενδράδος
στέρνου στρυφνοῦ μοι θλίψον αὐτοῦ τὰς ῥάγας.
And if there is no ripe apple in the garden,
instead of an apple accept my breast;
and if you wish, my poor man, bend forward and eat;
and if the bunch of grapes of the vine are not mellow,
nip the grapes of my stiff breast.
The accumulative metaphoric identifications of the young woman’s body with fruits and later with a tree (4.283–298) articulate a creative reworking of parallel metaphors from the Song. [377] This accumulation creates an image of Charikles’ fictional beloved as a “closed garden” indeed, [378] a counterpart, that is, of the biblical Bride who is portrayed as “a closed garden, a sealed spring” (κῆπος κεκλεισμένος, πηγὴ ἐσφραγισμένη). [379]
In his fictitious story, Charikles plays on his invented identity as Drosilla’s brother (adelphos). By drawing from the ambivalent language of the Song, he preserves and idealizes his role as the adelphidos of Drosilla, in the biblical sense of the word. The erotic relationship between the two protagonists of the novel, temporarily suspended due to the barbarian master’s vehement passion for the heroine, is thus reenacted and further elaborated on an imaginary level in Charikles’ interlude, which has been modeled upon the sensual imagery of the Song of Songs.
This close relationship between the two lovers is also expressed in Drosilla’ ēthopoiia in the first book of the novel (1.289–352). Here Drosilla does not refer, of course, to Charikles as a brother but illustrates her love for him with some hyperboles not devoid of some religious connotations. After employing the conventional romantic image of the ivy surrounding the oak, Drosilla continues in this manner:
ἐθίζεται γὰρ συμπλοκαῖς ταῖς ἐκ νέου
καὶ σωματοῦται καὶ δοκεῖ πεφυκέναι
ἓν σῶμα, διπλῆν τὴν ἐνέργειαν φέρον·
οὕτω Δροσίλλα πρὸς Χαρικλῆν νυμφίον
ἓν σῶμα καὶ φρόνημα καὶ ψυχὴ μία.
For it [the ivy] is used to repeated embraces
and is assimilated [with the oak] into one trunk
and seems to have become
one body having two energies;
similarly, Drosilla is with her Bridegroom Charikles
one body and mind and one soul.
The last line recalls a well-known passage from the Bible (καὶ ἔσονται οἱ δύο εἰς σάρκα μίαν “and the two will become one body”), which is also used until today at the Greek Orthodox wedding service. [380] In addition to this allusion, another subtle religious reference may be detected here. The word energeia bears specific Christological connotations. [381] Eugeneianos’ opting for this particular term may be deliberate since its theological associations would have hardly escaped the attention of the informed members of his audience.
The numerous allusions to the Song in Charikles’ fabricated interlude and their possible allegorical connotations are further corroborated when viewed against the background of other similar allegorical references to the heroine throughout the novel. Eugeneianos indulges in a creative rhetorical play upon Drosilla’s name, which derives from drosos (dew). In addition to the allusive use of drosos in the excerpt discussed above (4.234), the following scene indicates that under the name of the heroine a potentially mystical meaning may also lie. The fifth book of the novel begins with the description of the young woman who wakes up in a garden after a difficult night, a night full of worries and gloomy thoughts. Her lover is lying at her side. They are still prisoners in the hands of the barbarians who have captured them. When she wakes from her deep and disturbed sleep, Drosilla wipes off the perspiration running down her face. Eugeneianos employs an evocative metaphor to describe Drosilla’s sweat: “it is like the morning dew (drosos) on the grass in the spring.” The Greek text (ὡς εἰς ἔαρ ἄγρωστις ὀρθρίαν δρόσον; 5.19) recalls the description of Moses’ words in Deuteronomy: καὶ καταβήτω ὡς δρόσος τὰ ῥήματά μου, ὡσεὶ ὄμβρος ἐπ’ ἄγρωστιν [382] (“and let my words come down as dew, as rain on the grass”).
The metonymic association of Drosilla with the garden, indicated by the subtle pun on her name (agrōstis-drosos), is further enriched with the possible profound associations introduced by the biblical allusions that analeptically recall a previous nexus of similarly complex analogies between the heroine and a locus amoenus. In the third book, Charikles narrates to his friend Kleandros how he first met Drosilla. In contrast to the fictitious story that he later invents in order to manipulate Kleinias’ dangerous passion for Drosilla, this is a true recollection. Charikles first saw his beloved at a feast in honor of Dionysos, the god who protects the young couple throughout the novel. She was dancing with some other young women, but her exquisite appearance surpassed the beauty of all her companions. Charikles employs a Sapphic metaphor to describe Drosilla’s charms more vividly. She was like a moon surrounded by a circle of stars (3.336–338). [383] The whole description of the pagan celebration is replete with bucolic and lyric images that can be traced back to Hellenistic poetry. [384] In this section of his novel, Eugeneianos seems to demonstrate his deep familiarity with Hellenistic literary tradition deliberately in order to satisfy his audience’s fascination with ancient literary genres.
These ancient Greek echoes are, however, subtly tuned to a polyphonic dialogue with biblical influences. The ekphrasis of the surroundings of Dionysos’ temple recalls not only the idyllic scenery of ancient Greek bucolic poetry but also the landscape of Eden. A river flows through the idyllic spot that recalls the river in Paradise. [385] Its description as “pleasant to look at and better to drink” (ἰδεῖν μὲν ἡδὺς καὶ πεπόσθαι βελτίων) may recall Heliodoros’ reference to Nile as “sweetest to drink … and most pleasant to touch” (πιεῖν τε … γλυκύτατος … καὶ θιγεῖν προσηνέστατος), [386] but it may also echo the biblical description of the tree of life as “a tree beautiful to see and sweet to eat” (ξύλον ὡραῖον εἰς ὅρασιν, καὶ καλὸν εἰς βρῶσιν). [387] By contrast to the Heliodoran Nile that often overflows its banks, the river in Eugeneianos’ novel is always quiet. Its name indicates both its alleged benevolent impact on the life of the people of its area and its biblical allusions. It is called Melirrhoas, a name that invests Dionysos’ sacred place with the transcendental aura of a utopian Promised Land. [388] Melirrhoas’ alternative name, Threpsagrostis (Θρεψάγρωστις), proleptically alludes to the possible biblical echoes of the complex association—metonymic and metaphoric at the same time—of Drosilla’s perspiration with the morning dew (drosos) of the grass ( agrōstis ) in the fifth book of the novel. The “sweetest dew (drosos)” that the river itself receives from heaven (ἐκ δ’ οὐρανοῦ κάτεισιν ἡδίστη δρόσος, 3.81)—a detail that, with its potential profound allusiveness, [389] contributes to the delineation of Dionysos’ place as a blessed land—underscores the intriguing metonymic connection of the heroine with the sacred site. It is upon their return to this sacred land and to Melirrhoas that Drosilla, following “the divine providence” (τῇ δέ προνοίᾳ τῶν θεῶν; 8.147; 8.151–160), promises to marry Charikles. [390] Indeed, the novel ends in accordance with “the divine providence” of Dionysos. After all their adventurous peregrinations, the young couple return home and are married at the god’s mystical place (9.286–300). The cyclical structure of the novel does not depart considerably from the established model of the genre, but at the same time it is inscribed within the chronotope of a rich and potentially allegorical biblical tradition.
These biblical allusions had been already introduced into the story in the first book of the novel, in the ekphrasis of Drosilla (1.120–158). The lips of the heroine are described with a sensual metaphor: κάλυξ τὰ χείλη, σίμβλον ἀνεῳγμένον,/θυμῆρες ἐκρέοντα τοῦ λόγου μέλι (“her lips [were like] a calyx, an opened beehive,/flowing pleasant honey of speech”; 1.128–129). [391] Notwithstanding its associations with other examples of the Greek novel, [392] this metaphor may allude also to the Song of Songs, thus investing Drosilla’s image with the ethereal associations that are developed later in Charikles’ fabricated love story in book four. Furthermore, the emphasis on Drosilla’s sweet logos recalls the passage from Deuteronomy (32.2.2–3) that may have inspired Eugeneianos’ metonymic comparison of Drosilla’s sweat with drosos (dew) in book five. A variation of this association of the heroine with drosos is also used in her ekphrasis: τὸ στέρνον ἄλλην εἶχεν ὀρθρίαν δρόσον (“her breast had other morning dew”; 1.141). Most probably, the allusion here is to a passage from Osee: τὸ ἔλεος ὑμῶν ὡς νεφέλη πρωινὴ καὶ ὡς δρόσος ὀρθρινὴ πορευομένη (“your pity as a morning cloud and as dew flowing in daybreak”; 6.4). [393]
The biblical allusions in Drosilla and Charikles are complemented by the intriguing inscription of a Platonic intertext in the story. Drosilla, like all the other heroines in the ancient Greek and the Komnenian novel, and despite all her adventures and her beloved’s persistent attempt to consummate their love before their wedding, preserves her virginity until the happy ending: her marriage with Charikles. Toward the end of the novel, Drosilla responds to Charikles’ pressing demand with a moralistic demonstration of her resolution to preserve her sōphrosunē (8.142). When he insists, she replies with a strong reprimand couched in a rather Platonic manner:
᾿Αλλ’, ὦ Χαρίκλεις …
οὐ τὴν Δροσίλλαν, ἀλλ’ ῎Ερωτος ἀγρίου (erōtos agriou)
ἔοικας ἔργον τερπνὸν ἐνστερνικέναι.
But, Charikles, …
it seems that not Drosilla but rather the delightful enterprise of violent Eros
you cherish in your heart.
Eugeneianos may allude here to the idea of agrioi erōtes that Plato mentions in his discussion in Phaedo of the fate of the soul after death. [394] Plato’s analysis of this issue is pertinent to Drosilla’s arguments for the defense of her virginity. According to Plato, the soul that indulges in base carnal pleasures will not be able to reach the desired divine status. The reverse happens if the soul is preserved “pure.” The way in which Plato expresses this idea sounds like a probable intertextual model for the love story of the two heroes in Drosilla and Charikles and its possible elevated dimensions. The final arrival of the soul at “the divine” and “the immortal” state is described by Plato in terms of an adventurous journey not very different from that on which the heroes of the novel embark:
οὐκοῦν οὕτω μὲν ἔχουσα ἡ ψυχὴ εἰς τὸ ὅμοιον αὐτῇ, τὸ ἀιδὲς ἀπέρχεται, τὸ θεῖόν τε καὶ ἀθάνατον καὶ φρόνιμον, οἷ ἀφικομένῃ ὑπάρχει αὐτῇ ευδαίμονι εἶναι, πλάνης καὶ ἀνοίας καὶ φόβων καὶ ἀγρίων ἐρώτων καὶ τῶν ἄλλων κακῶν τῶν ἀνθρωπείων ἀπηλλαγμένη, ὥσπερ δὲ λέγεται κατὰ τῶν μεμυημένων, ὠς ἀληθῶς τὸν λοιπὸν χρόνον μετὰ θεῶν διάγουσα. [395]
A soul in this state makes its way to the invisible, which is like itself, the immortal and divine and wise, and arriving there it can be happy, having rid itself of confusion, ignorance, fear, violent desires and the other human ills and, as is said of the initiates, truly spend the rest of time with the gods. [396]
Coming at a crucial point in the story—after the reunion of the two lovers but before their wedding—Eugeneianos’ allusion to the Platonic text may invest his novel with additional profound dimensions. Drosilla promises to her beloved that they will consummate their love as soon as they arrive at their homeland, drink the water of Melirrhoas, and are married at the sacred place of Dionysos. This is, she says, what the gods’ providence has decided (8.139–162). [397] But before that, she is resolved to protect her sōphrosunē against the threat of Charikles’ agrioi erōtes.
A reading of Drosilla’s connection with the loci amoeni examined so far, as well as of her image in the novel as a whole in terms of allegorical modulations, is suggested not only by the recurrent and dense allusions to biblical texts in the novel itself, but also by the broader allegorical literary tradition of mid-twelfth-century Byzantium. For instance, in some epigrams on gardens attributed to Theodoros Prodromos, Eugeneianos’ close friend and literary model, a suggestive sensual diction is employed that culminates in anagogical contemplation. In the following example, the metaphoric imagery of an implicit profane consummation of love is viewed as the first step toward a mystical knowledge of God:
ἄνθρωπε, δεῦρο καὶ τρύγησον καὶ φάγε,
ἀκινδύνως γὰρ καὶ τρυγήσεις καὶ φάγεις,
μόνον τὸ λίχνον ἐκδιώξας μακρόθεν
τὸν ὑάκινθον κεῖρε, τοῦ κρίνου δρέπου,
τρύγα τὸ μύρτον, λαμβάνου τοῦ βαλσάμου,
οὐχ ὡς δι’ αὐτῶν θηλυνεῖς τὴν καρδίαν,
ἀλλ’ ὡς τρυγήσεις μυστικὴν εὐωδίαν,
ταῖς κτίσεσιν γνοὺς τὸν κτίσαντα δεσπότην. [398]
Man, come here and gather and eat,
for you will gather and eat without danger,
only leaving behind greediness,
pluck the hyacinth, pick the lily,
gather the myrtle, get the balsam,
not so that you soften your heart with them,
but so that you gather mystical fragrance,
through the creatures knowing the Lord who created them.
The reference here to specific flowers and the use of marked words such as μυστικός indicate that most probably Prodromos’ allegorical exploitation of the motif of garden draws from the Song of Songs and its traditional allegorizations or, at least, from parallel intertexts of lyric mysticism.
Similar imagery with comparable mystical connotations is employed by Manganeios Prodromos in his poem addressed “to the lady who is above physical pleasure” discussed earlier in this Chapter. Proceeding from the natural world to the invisible realm of Paradise in an anagogical manner recalling the conventions of allegorical exegetical tradition, Manganeios portrays Euphrates and “the perfumes/which [it] carries down as it flows” as a symbol of Paradise. [399] In Manganeios, as in Eugeneianos, this profound imagery is employed in a secular context, that is, in the encomiastic description of the lady to whom the poem is addressed. [400]
In a poem by Nikolaos Kallikles (twelfth century), the image of the garden is similarly depicted in anagogical terms. The garden becomes the topos where “noble ideas” (νοῦν εὐγενῆ), “honest ēthos” (χρηστὸν ἦθος), [401] and elevating discourse are gathered together (τρυφῶ βότρυν λόγου). [402] The garden, an animated depository of signs of transcendental discourse, [403] reveals the miraculous “hand of God” [404] and teaches men to persevere in their attempts to attain virtue. [405] In this manner, the garden in Kallikles’ poem becomes an allegory of the divine Word.
In what is perhaps the most powerful Christian literary discourse on temperance, Methodios’ Symposium, a parallel confluence of sensual and mystical imagery occasionally informs the author’s metaphoric diction. As we have seen, the Song of Songs constitutes the main archetypal intertext of Methodios’ allegorical exploitation of evocative images from the natural world. For instance, the metaphor of the Bride as a lily is deciphered as a symbol of virginity. Like this flower, chastity, Methodios argues, is “a pure and fragrant and pleasant and delightful gift; for purity is similar to the spring …” [406] The metaphor of the garden is subjected to the same allegorical exploitation. For Methodios, the garden of the Song symbolizes the virtues not only of the Bride but of all chaste women, who resemble “a sealed Paradise where all the heavenly fragrances grow.” [407] Elsewhere, the personified Virtue’s realm is depicted again in the manner of the Canticle as “a most beautiful place full of lovely trees and pleasant breezes” where the South Wind and the North Wind are blowing and the fragrances are flowing. [408]
The obvious, albeit never before noticed thematic similarities between Prodromos’ aforementioned epigrams or comparable examples like Kallikles’ poem and Methodios’ treatise on virginity, and the imaginary dialogue of Charikles with his fictitious ethereal beloved in Eugeneianos’ novel illustrate the ways in which sensual imagery and mystical language coexist in the twelfth-century Greek novel. Furthermore, these possible parallels delineate the broader horizon of discursive expectations at least of the most informed members of the Byzantine audience who may have received the ambivalent language of these fictional works in terms of “liminal discourses” (metaichmioi logoi) probably open to a profound reading. [409]
The literary expectations of the twelfth-century Byzantine audience would justify a reception of Eugeneianos’ allusions to biblical texts, especially to the Song of Songs, as allegorical modulations, not necessarily in terms of a straightforward, one-dimensional allegory, but rather as part of a more complex rhetorical play open to different interpretations. Creative allegorical reworkings of the most sensual text of the Old Testament are often encountered in works of twelfth-century Greek authors. We do not know what impact, if any, Psellos’ allegorization of the Song, which had been composed in the late eleventh century for one of his imperial pupils, had on twelfth-century authors. [410] In any case, we should not underestimate its importance as the last known important example of the long medieval Greek tradition of allegorical exegesis of the Song before the era that saw the resurgence of the novel in Byzantium.
Not too long after the composition of Psellos’ poem, in the early twelfth century Niketas Seides composed a brief commentary on the Song as part of his Synopsis of the Bible. Seides distinguishes this work from other biblical texts because, he argues, it is not prophetic in character. Rather than typological truth it offers a symbolic depiction of the fulfillment of earlier prophecies, according to Seides. Following previous genre descriptions of this text, Seides notes that it has the form of an epithalamion dedicated to the Savior, who was so humble that he condescended to assume a human body. The Song, Seides says, has been composed throughout “mystically, by means of enigmatic allegory since the meaning of its principles is not conspicuous but hidden in secret language.” This is the reason for the obscurity of this text. Therefore, Seides continues, readers should approach it allegorically, as allegory secures the correct reception of the Song while protecting it from its possible defilement on the part of its “uneducated” readers. And since it refers to the completion of the prophecies of other books of the Old Testament, that is, to the “conjugality of the Logos with the flesh,” the Song is couched in joyous and cheerful style. Seides proceeds to explicate some images of the text with a view to establishing the idea that it depicts the story of Christ’s incarnation in symbolic terms. [411]
It is not without significance that in the twelfth century other Byzantine authors exploited the imagery of the Song of Songs in new creative ways. In his letters to one of the most important literary patronesses of the twelfth century, the Sebastokratorissa Eirene, a monk named Iakobos constantly compares his addressee’s enthusiasm for spiritual matters with the biblical Bride’s love for her Bridegroom. [412]
In his encomium of the Patriarch Michael Kourkouas (1143–1146), Michael Italikos compares Kourkouas’ consecration as a Patriarch and his devotion to the Church with the mystical relationship between the Bridegroom and his allegorical Bride in the Song. [413] In an anonymous ekphrasis of an imperial joust, the Emperor Manuel Komnenos, a possible model of the description of Eros in Makrembolites’ novel Hysmine and Hysminias, is presented in terms of the allegorical sensual imagery of the Song of Songs. [414]
The conventions of the genre of the novel and the tradition of the allegorical interpretation of the Song gave Eugeneianos the opportunity to explore the possibilities of the ambivalent language of this work in an equally ambivalent way. [415] On the one hand, the sensuous and dreamlike atmosphere of the Canticle contributes to the lyricism of Eugeneianos’ erotic story. On the other, the mysticism of the biblical text, especially as forged by Christian commentators, invests this story with a subtle allegorical allusiveness. Those members of Eugeneianos’ original audience who were familiar both with the metaphoric appropriations of biblical imagery by their contemporary authors [416] and with the overall medieval Greek allegorical approach to pagan and biblical literature may have received Eugeneianos’ novel in terms of allegorical modulations. These modulations were conducive to the complexity of the rhetorical play of literary composition and interpretation that the production and consumption of this kind of literary works involved.
The resurgence of the genre of the novel in twelfth-century Byzantium is accompanied by a significant flourishing of allegorical exegesis of Homeric poetry and ancient Greek myths unprecedented in Byzantine literature. This literary activity, enriched also by the allegorizations of specific fictional narratives (Aithiopika and Stephanites and Ichnelates), exemplifies a theoretical approach to fictional literature as a double-layered discourse consisting of an apparent and a hidden, more profound, meaning. The same attitude is attested in later allegorizations of this kind. My analysis of Hysmine and Hysminias and Drosilla and Charikles shows that most probably the Komnenian novelists were familiar with this approach to literature and manipulated it for their narrative needs.
Eumathios Makrembolites develops his story as an enigmatic fictional discourse that creates the rhetorical effect of emphasis, an aesthetic quality closely associated with allegory. This narrative mode is sustained throughout the story by means both of the use of the allegorical potential of personification and of a number of recurrent allusions to Neoplatonism. These affinities with Neoplatonism may also be of some importance for the dating of Hysmine and Hysminias in the 1140s-1150s. The overarching narrative schema into which all these elements are incorporated may be viewed as a fictional reenactment of a ritual of maturity or of the ritualistic conditions of the mystical experience of pilgrimage. The concept of eris in its double primordial Hesiodic meaning, in the sense, that is, of strife and emulation, plays a pivotal role in the construction of Makrembolites’ ritual poetics. It is primarily at this deep structural level where pagan narrative conventions and Byzantine patterns of thought converge in Makrembolites’ fiction.
Allegorical modulations in the Komnenian novel can also take the form of allusions to examples of the biblical tradition. Niketas Eugeneianos in particular appropriates the ambivalent language of the Song of Songs, the paradigm of biblical lyricism par excellence, in order to invest his novel with subtle double-tongued—and potentially allegorical—dimensions. More specifically, in his references to Drosilla, the heroine of the novel, sensual imagery is charged with semantic profundity by means of a creative manipulation of the metaphoric vocabulary of sanctioned biblical texts. The result is an occasionally highly amphoteroglōsson discourse that has assimilated any possible tensions between pagan eroticism and Christian morality.


[ back ] 1. Lewis 1936, especially 44–48; cf. Bloomfield 1963:168–171. Despite his theoretical affinities with poststructuralism and his overall historically informed approach, Zumthor seems to be enticed by the rather unhistorical Romantic promotion of symbol (Zumthor 1992:85–98, especially 93–94). Eco rightly points to the modernity of the distinction between symbol and allegory; see Eco 1987:72–74.
[ back ] 2. Romantic authors saw in allegory an inflexible figure based on an alleged superficial semantic relationship between two levels of signification. Symbol, on the contrary, was supposed to establish an inherent unity between the idea and its figurative representation, and was therefore considered more poetic than “irksome” allegory. The bibliography on the theoretical appropriation of the concept of allegory in Romantic and (post)modern criticism is vast. I have found particularly illuminating the following studies: Dieckmann 1959; Culler 1976; Todorov 1982a:147–221; Kelley 1997; Whitman 1991 (an interesting exploration of Romanticism in connection with early Christian approaches to allegory). Insightful are the observations in Gadamer 1958. On postmodernist appropriations of allegory, see, for instance, de Man 1979; 1983, especially 166–186; the collected essays in Greenblatt 1981. Indicative of the poststructuralist reevaluation of allegory is its characterization by Fineman as “the trope of tropes, representative of the figurality of all language, of the distance between signifier and signified” (Fineman 1981:27). In recent years, Benjamin 1928 has become very influential. Notable is also the appropriation of the concept of allegory in poststructuralist anthropological studies; see, for instance, Clifford 1986. Especially important for the reappraisal of allegory in literary theory in the twentieth century has been Fletcher 1964, which is still an exceptionally rich and insightful study. Frye 1957, especially 71–128, presents an astute discussion of the subject when it is not overly schematic. Indicative of Frye’s rather excessive valorization of allegory is his claim that “all commentary is allegorical interpretation, an attachment of ideas to the structure of poetic imagery” (Frye 1957:89); cf. below n114. It is notable that Frye’s emphasis on the concept of allegory as the most all-encompassing interpretive mode of literature has been further developed, although from a radically different perspective, in poststructuralist literary theory.
[ back ] 3. The following discussions of allegory and allegorical modes in Western European medieval literature have been particularly helpful for the formation of my approach to medieval Greek allegory: Lewis 1936 remains an informative and highly helpful study; the same holds for Auerbach 1938; Dronke 1974; Jauss 1960; 1962; 1964; 1968 (fundamental studies with an emphasis on the literary appropriation and development of allegorical modes in medieval literature); Zumthor 1992, especially 85–98, offers a highly sophisticated discussion; Whitman 1987; Wetherbee 2000; cf. also the essays collected in Russell 1988.
[ back ] 4. Hunger 1954, 1955, and 1956 remain important, but occasionally outdated, exceptions. Despite its limited scope, Cesaretti 1991 is a more systematic study of medieval Greek allegorization. On specific aspects of allegory in Byzantine literature, cf. also Cupane 1974a; 1978b. For an insightful discussion of allegorical modes of thought in Byzantium, see Averintsev 1988:183–207.
[ back ] 5. According to Grube, On Style was written most probably around 270 B.C. (Grube 1961:56); a much later date (first century AD) had been proposed by Rhys Roberts (Rhys Roberts 1902:64; for a recent overview of Demetrios’ date see Innes 1995:312–321, where a preference is put forward for the second century B.C.). The word ὑπόνοια was the first term to be used in the sense of allegory (Tate 1929:143; cf. Rollinson 1981:5). For other discussions of ancient Greek rhetorical theories of allegory, see the essays in Boys-Stones 2003; especially Innes 2003; Laird 2003. Hahn 1967 remains a highly informative study; cf. also Rollinson 1981.
[ back ] 6. On Style, 100–101; trans. Innes 1995.
[ back ] 7. ῾Ο γὰρ ἄλλα μὲν ἀγορεύων τρόπος, ἕτερα δὲ ὧν λέγει σημαίνων, ἐπωνύμως ἀλληγορία καλεῖται (Buffière 1962:5.2). On Pseudo-Herakleitos’ rhetorical interpretive method, see Russell 2003.
[ back ] 8. See, for instance, the discussions of this trope by Kokondrios (Spengel 3.26), Choiroboskos (Spengel 3.244.13), Gregorios Pardos (Spengel 3.215.21).
[ back ] 9. ᾿Αλληγορία μὲν οὖν ἐστὶν ὅταν τῶν κυρίων τι ἑρμηνεύῃ τις ἐν μεταφοραῖς τὸ κύριον σημαίνειν δυναμέναις (Spengel 3.70.3).
[ back ] 10. ᾿Αλληγορία ἐστὶ λόγος ἕτερον μέν τι κυρίως δηλῶν, ἑτέρου δὲ ἔννοιαν παριστάνων καθ’ ὁμοίωσιν ἐπὶ τὸ πλεῖστον (Spengel 3.193.9).
[ back ] 11. See his De Oratore 3.41.166 and Orator 27.94. Later, it was Quintilian who formulated the classical definition of allegory in terms of metaphor as following: “allegorian facit continua metaphora” (Institutio Oratoria, 9.2.46).
[ back ] 12. Walz 6.221.10–13.
[ back ] 13. Walz 6.221.27–30.
[ back ] 14. See e.g. Spengell 3.216.1–9; 234.27–235.19; 207.18–23; 244.15–245.13.
[ back ] 15. For an illuminating discussion of allegoresis as a critical method, see Quilligan 1979; cf. also Jauss 1971; Bloomfield 1972. On pagan allegoresis, see Buffière 1956; Pepin 1958 (especially 9–214); Lamberton 1986; 1992; Lamberton and Keaney 1992.
[ back ] 16. Tate 1929; 1934. See also Hunger 1954:38. Different is the view of Pfeiffer, who does not accept that the sophists practiced allegorical interpretation of literature (Pfeiffer 1968:35; 237).
[ back ] 17. Μέγας ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ καὶ χαλεπὸς ἀγὼν ῾Ομήρῳ καταγγέλλεται περὶ τῆς εἰς τὸ θεῖον ὀλιγωρίας. Πάντα γὰρ ἠσέβησεν, εἰ μηδὲν ἠλληγόρησεν (Buffière 1962:1.1).
[ back ] 18. On Proklos’ tripartite categorization of poetry, see Lamberton 1986:183–197 and Bernard 1990:35–50; cf. also the interesting discussion in Coulter 1976:103–126; see also below p. 145. On Proklan allegoresis in general, see also Lamberton 1986:162–232; Bernard 1990:70–182.
[ back ] 19. Kroll 1899:1.85.16–17.
[ back ] 20. ᾿Αναγκάζειν εἰς τὸ ἐντὸς τῶν μύθων διαβάλλειν καὶ τὸν κεκρυμμένον ἐν ἀφανεῖ τῶν μυθοπλαστῶν περιεργάζεσθαι νοῦν, καὶ θεωρεῖν ὁποίας μὲν φύσεις, ἡλίκας δὲ δυνάμεις ἐκεῖνοι λαβόντες εἰς τὴν αὐτῶν διάνοιαν τοῖσδε τοῖς συμβόλοις ἐσήμηναν (Kroll 1899:1.85.21–26).
[ back ] 21. ῞Απαν γὰρ οἶμαι τὸ περὶ τὴν γένεσιν κάλλος ἐκ τῆς δημιουργίας ὑποστὰν διὰ τῆς ῾Ελένης οἱ μῦθοι σημαίνειν ἐθέλουσιν, περὶ ὃ καὶ τῶν ψυχῶν πόλεμος τὸν ἀεὶ χρόνον συγκεκρότηται μέχρις ἂν αἱ νοερώτεροι τῶν ἀλογωτέρων εἰδῶν τῆς ζωῆς κρατήσασθαι περιαχθῶσιν ἐντεῦθεν εἰς ἐκεῖνον τὸν τόπον, ἀφ’ οὗ τὴν ἀρχὴν ὡρμήθησαν (Kroll 1899:1.175.15–21).
[ back ] 22. Despite evidence of allegorical interpretations of Homer by a certain Demo in the sixth century, poignantly criticized by Tzetzes (Allegories on Odyssey, Hunger 1956:254.28–34; cf. also Hunger 1954:43–44), and some possible traces of allegorization in the work of Arethas in the tenth century (Kougeas 1913:146), no systematic allegorization of pagan literature has been preserved before the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
[ back ] 23. On allegory in early Christianity, see the following fundamental studies: Danielou 1950; Wolfson 1970, especially 24–72; Pepin 1958; 1987; Simonetti 1985; Dawson 1992 offers an interesting discussion of allegorization, especially in Philon and Klemes, from a theoretically informed point of view.
[ back ] 24. Stählin and Früchtel 1985:5.21.4.
[ back ] 25. Stählin and Früchtel 1985:5.41.1.
[ back ] 26. Stählin and Früchtel 1985:5.31.5.
[ back ] 27. Stählin and Früchtel 1985:5.50. As I shall discuss below, Tzetzes defines this kind of physical allegorization as στοιχειακή. Occasionally, Klemes applies this approach to his reading of the biblical tradition too. A case in point is his discussion of the symbolic architectonics of the Jewish temple and the dressing of the priests, which, as he explains, represents the structure of the universe (αὐτίκα ὁμολογεῖ τὴν ἐπίκρυψιν ἡ περὶ τὸν νεὼν τὸν παλαιὸν τῶν ἑπτὰ περιβόλων πρός τι ἀναφορὰ παρ’ ῾Εβραίοις ἱστορουμένη ἥ τε κατὰ τὸν ποδήρη διασκευή, διὰ ποικίλων τῶν πρὸς τὰ φαινόμενα συμβόλων τὴν ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ μέχρι γῆς αἰνισσομένη συνθήκην; Stählin and Früchtel 1985:5.32). A similar allegorical interpretation of the typical Christian temple and the dressing of the priests was composed by the Patriarch Germanos in the eighth century; for a discussion of his approach as a case of allegorical ritual poetics, see Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2003b.
[ back ] 28. Fr. Inc. 4 TGF.
[ back ] 29. For the use of this metaphor in the context of allegorical interpretation, cf. below pp. 131–132.
[ back ] 30. Stählin and Früchtel 1985:5.48.7.
[ back ] 31. Stählin and Früchtel 1985:5.70.2–6; Euripides’ passage is fr. Inc. 912; cf. Stählin and Früchtel 1985:5.36.1–2, where another tragic fragment (Kritias’ Pirithous, fr. 18 Diehls) is explicated in comparable allegorical terms.
[ back ] 32. Stählin and Früchtel 1985:6.132.3.
[ back ] 33. For a discussion of the metaphor of the text and its meaning as body and soul, respectively, in Philon and Origenes, see Dawson 2000.
[ back ] 34. Stählin and Früchtel 1985:5.18–21.
[ back ] 35. Cf. Cesaretti 1991:44.
[ back ] 36. Zervos has suggested that Psellos’ allegories on Tantalos and Kronos betray an influence from Stoicism, whereas his interpretations of the Homeric passage on the assembly of the gods, the golden chain, and the Sphinx owe a great deal to Neoplatonism (Zervos 1920:170–182; cf. also Tatakes 1977:190–193).
[ back ] 37. For this attitude of the ancient Greek allegorists, see Lamberton 1986:20.
[ back ] 38. In his analysis of Psellos’ allegorical interpretations, Cesaretti, too, underlines the role of rhetoric in them. Cesaretti, however, seems to accept that Psellos believed that the myths actually had a second, more mystical, content and therefore foreshadowed Christian truth (Cesaretti 1991:54). I argue that Psellos’ allegorical treatises often bespeak a rhetorical attitude toward these myths that does not presuppose the existence of a profound original meaning in them. Cesaretti’s useful analysis of Psellos’ allegorizations of ancient myths and literary passages would have been more effective and comprehensive, if it had also taken into account Psellos’ allegorical approach to biblical texts and folk sayings. For a discussion of some examples of these texts, see below in this Chapter.
[ back ] 39. Duffy 1992:158.20–22.
[ back ] 40. ᾿Εγὼ δὲ ἀπώκνησα ἂν τοῦτο ποιεῖν, εἰ μὴ αἱ μὲν ἀρχαῖαι κατήργηντο τελεταί, θεῖα δὲ ἐκρατύνθη δόγματα, ἀναπεταννύοντα μὲν τὰ παραπετάσματα, ἔνδον δὲ τοῦ ἀδύτου πολλάκις εἰσάγοντα τὸν τελούμενον (Duffy 1992:158.9–12).
[ back ] 41. Εἰ μὲν οὖν καὶ ὁ μῦθος τοιοῦτον ἐβούλετο, ἀγνοῶ· εἰ δ’ ἐγὼ περιττόν τι ἐνόησα, καὶ τοῦτο φιλόσοφόν τε καὶ Πυθαγόρειον (Duffy 1992:161.111–112).
[ back ] 42. Cf. Plato Phaedrus 243d. On this metaphor in the work of Psellos, see Duffy 2001.
[ back ] 43. Duffy, 1992:149.28–31.
[ back ] 44. For a detailed analysis of Psellos’ debts to Porphyrios’ allegorization, see Cesaretti 1991:90–122.
[ back ] 45. This is how Psellos concludes his allegorical interpretation of this subject: ᾿Εδυνάμην ἴσως πρὸς τὰς ἡμετέρας εἰλικρινεῖς θεωρίας μετενεγκεῖν προσφυῶς· ἀλλ’ οὐκ ᾠήθην δεῖν τὰ ψευδῆ καὶ πεπλανημένα ἀληθείας λαβεῖν ἔμφασιν, ἀλλὰ ταῖς οἰκείαις ἀναγωγαῖς αἰσχύνεσθαι καὶ δημοσιεύεσθαι, αἷς ὁ ἐξηγητὴς αὐτῶν Πορφύριος καὶ λίαν σεμνύνεται (Duffy 1992:164.82–86). This passage attests to the arbitrary character of Psellos’ own interpretation: in theory he criticizes Porphyrios’ method, but in practice he adopts it.
[ back ] 46. Gautier 1989:30–31.
[ back ] 47. Solomon’s Proverbs are described as λόγος αἰνίγματι ὅμοιος καὶ πλήρης ἐμφάσεως, πλαγίως καὶ ἐκ περιόδου ὑποδεικνὺς τὴν ἀλήθειαν (Gautier 1989:28.36–37). For the meaning of emphasis and its association with allegory in Byzantine tradition, see below in this Chapter. Psellos also composed allegorical interpretations of popular sayings and customs. His approach to them resembles his attitude toward ancient myths. The popular practices and sayings are sometimes described in derogatory terms: φλύαρος (Sathas 1876:536), πρᾶξις μετὰ τῆς χείρονος ὑπολήψεως (Sathas 1876:527), συνήθεις καὶ ταπεινότεραι φωναὶ (Sathas 1876:532). Other times they are presented as “exact” (ἀκριβεῖς; Sathas 1876:542) and “philosophical discourse” (φιλόσοφοι λόγοι; Sathas 1876:541; 542). In any case, it is the interpreter, that is, Psellos himself, who invests the topics under discussion with a more elevated meaning. For instance, the vernacular (δημῶδες) phrase κάθου βλέπε τὴν αὐλὴν καὶ μὴ τὴν θάλασσαν is interpreted in a double way: αὐλή, Psellos contends, can allegorically refer either to Paradise or to the ‘practical virtue’ that leads man to ultimate spiritual contemplation (θεωρία), or, in other words, to ‘God’s dwelling’ (Sathas 1876:541–542). In his allegorical interpretation of the festival of Agathe, Psellos employs a metaphor that recalls his interpretations of the ancient myths and texts: philosophical discourse can transform even the humblest subjects, exactly like Moses who “extracted water from the stone and made the bitter water drinkable” (Sathas 1876:527). “Being accustomed to applying elevated concepts to things,” Psellos does not perceive the name of this popular event in an “inelegant way” (ἀκόμψως) but he considers it an invention of a wise man (νοερωτέρας ἐπιβολὰς ἐθισμένος ἐπιβάλλειν τοῖς πράγμασιν, οὐκ ἀκόμψως τὴν τῆς ᾿Αγάθης κλῆσιν κατανενόηκα, ἀλλ’ οἴομαι εὕρημα τοῦτο εἶναι ἀνδρὸς φιλοσόφου, Sathas 1876:528; for the festival of Agathe, see Laiou 1986, where, however, Psellos’ allegorical concerns are not addressed).
[ back ] 48. For the importance of the Homeric texts in twelfth-century Byzantine education and literature, see Vassilikopoulou 1971/2. For a general account of the reception and interpretation of Homer in medieval Greek literature, see Browning 1975 and 1992.
[ back ] 49. ῾Ο δ’ αὖ ἀληθής, τὴν ἀλήθειαν φέρει,/ἀλληγορεῖσθαι δ’ οὐδαμῶς ἔχει φύσιν … /Παῦλον γὰρ οὐκ ἂν οὐδὲ Πέτρον τις γράφων/ἀλληγορήσῃ μὴ νοσήσας τὰς φρένας (Hunger 1955:30–35). I would read the last two verses as a possible allusion to Psellos, who allegorized characters from the New Testament indeed; see, for example, Psellos’ interpretations in Gautier 1989:70; 162–165.
[ back ] 50. Hunger 1955:36.
[ back ] 51. Καὶ πρακτικῶς μὲν τὰ πεπραγμένα λέγει/ἀλληγορεῖ τε τοὺς ὑπὲρ φύσιν λόγους (Hunger 1955:38–39).
[ back ] 52. This holds true specifically for the inventors of allegorical discourse, who, in Tzetzes’ view, were no others than the Egyptians (Hunger 1955:1–11).
[ back ] 53. Scheer 1908:2.1.22–23 (Koster 1975:112.1–3).
[ back ] 54. Cf. e.g. his remark in his Exegesis that Homer composed a story with a double meaning in order to satisfy the expectations of diverse audiences. On the one hand, the Homeric story is mythical and, therefore, attractive to the young people; on the other, it is elevated and attractive to “those souls that aspire to more divine things” (Hermann 1812:27.24–28).
[ back ] 55. This tripartite model recalls the ancient Greek allegorical tradition. The pragmatic method goes back to Palaiphatos and Euemeros, while the other two to the first known practitioner of allegorical interpretation, that is, Theagenes of Rhegion (cf. Hunger 1954:49; 51).
[ back ] 56. Χρονικὴ Βίβλος, Hunger 1955:100–102.
[ back ] 57. Hunger 1955:122–125.
[ back ] 58. See Cesaretti 1991:132–136.
[ back ] 59. In his Allegories on the Odyssey, for example, occasionally Tzetzes warns his addressee of the danger of being misled by the ambiguous intention of the “deep-minded old man” (ὁ γέρων ὁ βαθύνους; Hunger 1956: I.70–72); Hunger 1956:98–99; cf. also Hunger 1956:VII.192–206, where the ambiguity of Poseidon’s alleged allegorical significance is attributed to Homer’s playful composition: ῞Ομηρος παίζων δέ φησι σχῆμα τῇ μεταβάσει (Hunger 1956:192). Cf. also Hunger 1956:VIII.23–30, where again the inconsistency of Tzetzes’ own interpretation is presented as due to Homer’s wise linguistic play with an alleged homonym: the problem here is once more the name “Poseidon,” which is interpreted by Tzetzes as the name of a real person. This is a particularly interesting case since here Tzetzes applies what he calls the “pragmatic method” of allegorization (πρακτικῶς), which in his Χρονικὴ Βίβλος is associated with rhetorical rather than philosophical allegorization. His preference for this “rhetorical” method of allegorization in this case reflects the rhetoricity of his own allegorical interpretation. Cf. also XIII 87–96, which repeats the discussion in VII 192–206; Allegories on the Iliad, Boissonade 1851: I 330; 341; XVII 418; XXI 34–36; 240.
[ back ] 60. In his introduction to his Allegories on the Iliad, Tzetzes extols the ability of Homer, the exemplary “rhetor” and “forcible writer,” to adjust his material to each specific narrative context (Boissonade 1851:1164–1170); cf. also Boissonade 1851:XV.37–41, where Homer is suggested as a rhetorical model for those who wish to learn how to produce a discourse that could give the impression that the meaning of the words changes, although it remains immutable: ὃς ἂν δὲ χρήζῃ μέθοδον δεινότητος μανθάνειν/καὶ θέλῃ ῥήτορα δεινόν, καὶ θέλῃ λογογράφον,/καὶ μεταφράσει χρῆσθαι δέ, τῇ καὶ μεταποιήσει,/καὶ λέγων πάλιν τὰ αὐτὰ δοκεῖν ὡς ἄλλα λέγειν/τὸν ῞Ομηρον ἐχέτω μοι παράδειγμα τῆς τέχνης. The terms μετάφρασις and μεταποίησις recall the vocabulary that Psellos employs to refer to allegorical interpretation. The difference is that, whereas Psellos uses these terms in order to characterize his own method of allegorical interpretation of ancient themes, Tzetzes applies them to Homer’s alleged discursive intentionality. It is worth noting that this passage, too, bespeaks Tzetzes’ fascination with what in his Chiliads defines as amphoteroglōssia.
[ back ] 61. Scheer 1908:87.32–88.12.
[ back ] 62. Van der Valk 1971–1987:1.65.
[ back ] 63. Van der Valk 1971–1987:1.37.
[ back ] 64. Van der Valk 1971–1987:1.74.
[ back ] 65. Van der Valk 1971–1987:1.65.
[ back ] 66. Van der Valk 1971–1987:1.134.
[ back ] 67. Van der Valk 1971–1987:1.4.
[ back ] 68. Kambylis 1991:15.7–9.
[ back ] 69. Flach 1876:336.
[ back ] 70. Flach 1876:336.
[ back ] 71. Flach 1876:340.
[ back ] 72. Flach 1876:420–424.
[ back ] 73. Flach 1876:420.
[ back ] 74. Flach 1876:423; cf. Psellos’ interpretation of the same scene, on which, see above pp. 122–123.
[ back ] 75. It may not be fortuitous that the term Galenos employs to refer to rhetoric (τεχνικὸς λόγος) is the same term that Psellos uses in similar contexts; see above p. 123
[ back ] 76. Tὸ τοῦ μύθου πρόσγειον ὡς ἐφικτὸν ὑψηλολογῆσαί τε καὶ πρὸς θειοτέραν ἰδέαν αὐτὸ μεταστοιχειῶσαι; Flach 1876:420.
[ back ] 77. In this short commentary, Galenos discerns three modes of allegorical interpretation: physical, ethical, and theological (Flach 1876:424).
[ back ] 78. Flach 1876:422.
[ back ] 79. The text was first published by Hercher in Hermes 5 (1869):382–388. It is noteworthy that Philippos’ interpretation is preserved in a thirteenth-century manuscript (Venetus Marcianus Gr.410, 122r-123v), that is, in a manuscript chronologically close to the date of the composition of the text. The problem of the date and authorship of the ἑρμήνευμα has given rise to several discussions. Colonna, who reprinted it in his edition of Heliodoros, held that Philippos lived in the tenth to eleventh century, but later he rightly identified its author as Philagathos Kerameus, who lived in the twelfth century (Colonna 1960; see also Lavagnini 1972/3). Cupane has further corroborated the arguments for the authorship of Philagathos Kerameus by pointing to close parallels between this allegorical interpretation and other works by Philagathos (Cupane 1978a:16–20). More recently, the date of Philippos’ ἑρμήνευμα has been disputed by Acconcia Longo, but rather unconvincingly. She bases her arguments on an arbitrary and unnecessary textual emendation. She emends the detail Πύλη ῾Ρηγίου into Πύλη ῾Ρηγίας, and then she proceeds to explore its alleged topographical context, which she envisages in fifth-century Constantinople (Acconcia Longo 1991). The strong intertextual evidence adduced by Cupane in her aforementioned study as well as Colonna’s and Lavagnini’s arguments offer the most persuasive and systematic solution to the problem. Their arguments could be further corroborated, if Philippos’ text were viewed in the broader context of the renewed Byzantine interest in allegorization in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
[ back ] 80. Cf., however, the important information provided by Psellos that his colleague Niketas used to interpret allegorically other ancient Greek authors as well (Sathas 1876:92).
[ back ] 81. Philippos presents himself as an old philosopher who does not deal with love stories any more, for these are appropriate for young people (ἐρωτικαὶ ἐξηγήσεις καὶ διηγήματα νεανικαῖς ἡλικίαις ἁρμόδιαι). The way in which he presents the antithesis between his present status as a man who has reached maturity in spiritual matters (τῆς καθ’ ἡμᾶς φιλοσοφίας καὶ σχῆμα καὶ ὄνομα) and his young friends, who admire Heliodoros’ novel and want him to compose a defense of the “insulted” Charikleia, recalls the claim that Psellos makes in his allegorizations that, although he is now devoted to more spiritual issues, he concedes to write allegorical interpretations of ancient myths for the sake of his students. Philippos, whose words suggest the possibility of a parallel, not necessarily institutionalized, educational context, refers to this kind of literary occupation as “the milk of elementary education” (γάλα τῆς νηπιώδους παιδεύσεως; cf. Cupane 1978a:26n81). This metaphor implies a possible didactic use of the novel, which recalls Psellos’ observations about the rhetorical character of Heliodoros and Achilleus Tatios and their appropriate order in a student’s “reading list” (see my discussion of this matter in the previous Chapter). For the metaphoric meaning of milk in an allegorical context, cf. Psellos’ metaphor in his allegorization of Zeus’ birth: the baby Zeus, says Psellos, is an allegory of the gradual development of ἔμφυτος λόγος, which passes through a “baby” phase, in which νηπιάζων … ὑπὸ σπαργάνοις ἐστὶ καί που καὶ κλαυθμηρίζει καὶ θηλῆς δέεται (Duffy 1992:170.64–65), before it reaches maturity. See also the image used by Pseudo-Herakleitos in the first chapter of his ῾Ομηρικὰ προβλήματα where he describes the great appeal of Homeric poetry to men of all ages as follows: εὐθὺς γὰρ ἐκ πρώτης ἡλικίας τὰ νήπια τῶν ἀρτιμαθῶν παίδων διδασκαλίᾳ παρ’ ἐκείνῳ τιτθεύεται, καὶ μονονοὺκ ἐσπαργανωμένοι τοῖς ἔπεσιν αὐτοῦ τοῦ [῾Ομήρου] καθαπερεὶ ποτίμῳ γάλακτι τὰς ψυχὰς ἐπάρδομεν (Buffière 1962:1.5).
[ back ] 82. Colonna 1938:366. Other twelfth-century texts where this topos is encountered include, for instance, Hysmine and Hysminias (5.10.1) and Ptochoprodromos (Hesseling and Pernot 1910: I.11).
[ back ] 83. In contrast to Psellos’ mystical allegorizations of ancient themes, Philippos does not use any derogatory terms in his discussion of the novel. Albeit conveying the same feeling of interpretive authority encountered also in Psellos, his description of erotic literature and his dealing with it as a “decent play” does not undermine the sincerity of his defense.
[ back ] 84. ῾Η βίβλος αὕτη, ὦ φίλοι, Κιρκαίῳ κυκεῶνι ὡμοίωται, τοὺς μὲν βεβήλως μεταλαμβάνοντας μεταμορφοῦσα πρὸς χοίρων ἀσέλγειαν, τοὺς δὲ κατ’ ᾿Οδυσσέα φιλοσοφοῦντας μυσταγωγοῦσα τὰ ὑψηλότερα (Colonna 1938:367). Psellos’ allegorical interpretation of Kirke’s story, which has the form of an ekphrasis, offers some parallels. Kirke symbolizes the pleasure that entices the souls of simple men and transforms them into whatever passion they tend toward. Only the semidivine souls escape the threat of Kirke (Littlewood 1985:128–129). The argument that different responses to a text depend on the character of its readers is not foreign to the Christian allegorical tradition; cf. Gärtner 1969:67n71.
[ back ] 85. Cf. Gärtner 1969:67.
[ back ] 86. Cupane (1978a:18) adduces some parallels from Philagathos’ own work. Cf. also Psellos’ imagery in his allegorical interpretation of the Sphinx (Duffy 1992:158.10–14), especially his metaphor of the veils that protect the sanctuary from profane intruders. His phrase ἀναπεταννύοντα τὰ παραπετάσματα also recalls Philippos’ expression [τὸν ἔνδοθεν ἱερὸν χιτῶνα] ἀναπετάσαι (Colonna 1938:368). It should be noted that Philippos alludes here to the habit of the Byzantines to refer to the ancient Greek novels with the name of their heroines; on this, see also above pp. 44, 47–48.
[ back ] 87. “No one doubts that things are perceived more readily through similitudes and that what is sought with difficulty is discovered with more pleasure” (Robertson 1958:II, VI, 8); cf. Todorov 1982a:75.
[ back ] 88. Poetics 1448b.
[ back ] 89. Todorov 1982b:123.
[ back ] 90. For a parallel of mystical numerological approach to ancient myths, cf. Psellos’ allegorization of the Sphinx (Duffy 1992:161.92–110).
[ back ] 91. The original text in Gärtner 1971:325.
[ back ] 92. Gärtner 1971:324.
[ back ] 93. Lawson 1957:270.
[ back ] 94. On this, cf. also the discussion in the last section of this chapter.
[ back ] 95. Papadopoulos Kerameus 1899:20.
[ back ] 96. For the significance of this term for the definition of the genre of the novel, see above in Chapters One and Two.
[ back ] 97. Papadopoulos Kerameus 1899:21.
[ back ] 98. Papadopoulos Kerameus 1899:22–23.
[ back ] 99. Τοιοῦτον ἐγὼ νοῦν ἐντεῦθεν συνέλεξα καὶ μὲ μηδεὶς ἐπιλήψεται ῥόδον ἐξ ἀκάνθης τρυγήσαντα, ἢ ἐκ θαλάσσης ἁλμυρᾶς πότιμον ὕδωρ ἐντέχνως ἀποπιάσαντα (Papadopoulos-Kerameus 1899:23).
[ back ] 100. Cf. Philippos the Philosopher’s remarks about the importance of the audience’s disposition for the interpretation of a text.
[ back ] 101. Haskins 1927:176–178; on Philagathos Kerameus, cf. Rossi Taibi 1969, especially vii-xvi and li. The text has been edited in Haskins 1927:176–177.
[ back ] 102. Cupane 1978a:20–24.
[ back ] 103. The text has been published by Knös (in Knös 1962:280–284).
[ back ] 104. Knös 1962:281.14–17.
[ back ] 105. Knös 1962:284.151–161.
[ back ] 106. As noted above, Psellos’ rhetorical approach to these texts indicates that for him the second semantic layer is connected with the interpreter’s allegorizing skills rather than with the real content of the myth or the literary text that is interpreted. Be this as it may, the presupposition of a double semantic level of the allegorized texts or myths remains important for Psellos’ allegorizations.
[ back ] 107. Cataldi Palau dates this manuscript to the fifteenth century (Cataldi Palau 1980:76).
[ back ] 108. Gallavotti 1935:217.
[ back ] 109. It is worth recalling that the adjectives δύσλυτον and δυσνόητον are often employed in connection with problems, riddles, or oracles. See LSJ s.v.
[ back ] 110. I take πόρρω τῆς ἐκκλησίας together with μὴ εἰδότας, although the syntax would also allow for its interpretation as dependent on the verb ἐστί. Even in the latter case, however, the emphasis is on μὴ εἰδότας—on those readers, that is, who ‘do not know’ and are therefore incapable of reading the novel properly.
[ back ] 111. Vinaver 1971:18.
[ back ] 112. Even so, Vinaver’s discussion is not without a certain comparative value since it points to analogous developments in twelfth-century Western Europe. For the flourishing of allegory in twelfth-century Western Europe, cf. also Jauss 1962; 1964; Dronke 1974; Whitman 1987; Whetherbee 2000. Zambron 2000 is a useful, albeit uneven, collection of essays on individual works.
[ back ] 113. Pertinent to my discussion of the concurrent flourishing of allegorical interpretation and fictional narrative in twelfth-century Byzantium is Fineman’s apt observation that allegory may be perceived as “that mode that makes up for the distance, or heals the gap, between the present and a disappearing past, which, without interpretation would be otherwise irretrievable and foreclosed” (Fineman 1981:29).
[ back ] 114. Heidegger 1971:19–20. Heidegger’s interpretive abuse of allegory is by no means unparalleled in modern critical theory; cf., for instance, Lodge’s comparable use of the concept of metaphor in Lodge 1977; see also above n2.
[ back ] 115. In fact, he is the only author in the entire tradition of the Greek novel that does so. Even Heliodoros’ technique of withholding information that he gradually discloses to his readers does not parallel Makrembolites’ more consistent and more explicit use of the semantic ambiguity of riddle. For Heliodoros’ manipulation of his narrative as a riddle, see Morgan 1994b.
[ back ] 116. For Makrembolites’ use of ancient Greek sources, see Gigante 1960. On his relation to Christian authors, see Plepelits 1989; cf. also the discussion about the views of this scholar below in this Chapter.
[ back ] 117. For a discussion of these rhetorical aspects in Makrembolites’ novel, see Chapter Two.
[ back ] 118. Polyakova was the first to suggest that Hysmine and Hysminias has an allegorical meaning and to read the novel as an extensive allegory of love (Polyakova 1979). Her insightful analysis could have been further corroborated if she had taken into account the (Neo)Platonic elements of the novel and tried to contextualize it in its twelfth-century Byzantine cultural environment in a more systematic way. Plepelits, who also proposes an allegorical reading of the novel, has adopted a rather one-dimensional, theological approach to the text. Despite its considerable contribution as far as the identification of possible Christian literary sources of Makrembolites is concerned, his overall analysis suffers from a rigid approach to the text. His approach is further undermined by his tendency to invest almost every single detail of the novel with an alleged Christian mystical meaning while ignoring the possibility of the coexistence of different allusions in the text. In her new discussion of the novel, Alexiou also puts emphasis on the mystical meaning of the novel but goes beyond Polyakova’s rather loose interpretation and Plepelits’s monolithic approach by focusing on specific possible Platonic echoes in Makrembolites’ novel (Alexiou 2002b:118–127). None of the aforementioned studies explores the Neoplatonic dimensions of Makrembolites’ work systematically or takes into account the broader twelfth-century synchronic context of the philosophical dimensions of the novel.
[ back ] 119. Kokondrios adopts the traditional definition of allegory: φράσις … ἕτερον μὲν δηλοῦσα κυρίως, ἑτέραν δὲ ἔννοιαν παριστῶσα (Spengel 3.234.27). Riddle and irony constitute the two kinds of allegory: εἴδη δὲ τῆς ἀλληγορίας εἰσὶ δύο, εἰρωνεία καὶ αἴνιγμα (Spengel 3.235.18).
[ back ] 120. Tryphon observes that allegory is obscure in either diction or thought, whereas riddle is ambiguous in both: [αἴνιγμα] διαφέρει ἀλληγορίας ὅτι ἡ μὲν ἀμαυροῦται ἢ λέξει ἢ διανοίᾳ, τὸ δὲ καθ’ ἑκάτερον (Spengel 3.193). Demetrios observes that a consistent allegory can result in a riddle (Peri Hermeneias 100–102). According to an anonymous rhetorician of the second century AD the main difference between the two tropes lies in the fact that riddle is predominantly aesthetic in character, whereas allegory ethical: προτροπῆς ἢ ἀποτροπῆς ἕνεκα ἢ καὶ διὰ σεμνότητα, τὸ αἴνιγμα δὲ χάριν ἀσαφείας ἐπιτεδηδευμένης μόνης (Spengel 3.209). A similar distinction is made by Choiroboskos (Spengel 3.253.28–31).
[ back ] 121. Γίνεται τὸ αἴνιγμα κατὰ τρόπους ἕξ: καθ’ ὅμοιον, κατ’ ἐναντίον, κατὰ συμβεβηκός, καθ’ ἱστορίαν, καθ’ ὁμωνυμίαν, κατὰ γλῶτταν (Spengel 3.193.28–31).
[ back ] 122. Tὸ δι’ ἐμφάσεων μυστικῶς τι καὶ τελεστικῶς ἐν ταῖς σεμναῖς τῶν ἐννοιῶν ὑποσημαίνειν μεθόδου σεμνῆς (Rabe 1913:246). For an excellent detailed discussion of emphasis in Byzantine rhetoric, see also Kustas 1973:159–199.
[ back ] 123. Μυστικῶς εὖ μάλα καὶ τελεστικῶς ἀνακαλύπτων τὴν τῶν κεκρυμμένων ἀλήθειαν (PG 101, 586A).
[ back ] 124. Λέξις δι’ ὑπονοίας αὐξάνουσα τὸ δηλούμενον (Spengel 3.199.15). It is worth recalling that the word ὑπόνοια was the first ancient Greek term for ‘allegory’. Tryphon’s connection of emphasis with this ‘amplifying’ effect recalls Hermogenes’ association of emphasis with the Idea of Amplitude too (Rabe 1913:288.4; 291.4,6).
[ back ] 125. ῞Οταν μὴ αὐτό τις λέγῃ τὸ πρᾶγμα ἀλλὰ δι’ ἑτέρων ἐμφαίνῃ (Spengel 3.65.28–29).
[ back ] 126. The full title of Arethas’ tract is Πρὸς τοὺς εἰς ἀσάφειαν ἡμᾶς ἐπισκώψαντας, ἐν ᾧ καὶ τίς ἡ ἰδέα οὗ μέτιμεν λόγου (Westerink 1968:186–1910.)
[ back ] 127. Sathas 1876:5.441–443.
[ back ] 128. Aἱ μὲν γὰρ ἀλληγορίαι καὶ ἐμφάσεις λέγονται· νοῦν γὰρ ἔχουσι πολύν· αἱ δὲ ἐμφάσεις οὐκ ἀλληγορίαι (Walz 6.222.19–21).
[ back ] 129. Walz 3.650.13–14.
[ back ] 130. This collection has been edited along with Hysmine and Hysminias by Hilberg 1876; see also Treu 1893. For the notion of riddle and its relation to allegory in Western tradition in general and specifically in the twelfth century, see Dronke 1974:45–47; on obscurity in the Western Middle Ages, see Ziolkowski 1996; cf. also Dungey 1988.
[ back ] 131. Kerenyi 1927; Merkelbach 1962. For a recent balanced reassessment of their approach see Doody 1997:150–170; cf. also Hägg 1983:101–104.
[ back ] 132. The established tradition of Greek allegorization promoted such parallel readings of secular or biblical texts. See, for instance, Tzetzes’ tripartite system of allegorical interpretation discussed above in this Chapter. Comparable is the potential ambiguity of examples of Byzantine art; on this, with an emphasis on early Byzantium, see the sensitive discussion in Maguire 1987:5–15.
[ back ] 133. Eco 1986:53.
[ back ] 134. On pansemiosis in medieval Western culture, see Eco 1987:75–79.
[ back ] 135. ῎Εξεστι γὰρ καὶ τὸν κόσμον μῦθον εἰπεῖν, σωμάτων μὲν καὶ χρημάτων ἐν αὐτῷ φαινομένων, ψυχῶν δὲ καὶ νῶν κρυπτομένων (Nock 1926:3. 4.9–11).
[ back ] 136. On Dreams, 2 (trans. Myer 1888:3).
[ back ] 137. For the concept of homological secular and sacred symbolic structures, see Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2003b, where an emphasis on ritual signification; for a comparable analysis of homologies among different domains of experience in premodern societies from a mainly anthropological perspective, cf. Bourdieu 1977:130–158. For a sensitive discussion of medieval Greek symbolism in terms of a continuous interplay between metaphor and metonymy, see Beck 1969.
[ back ] 138. Walz 6.59.
[ back ] 139. Walz 6.61–63; 68.
[ back ] 140. Walz 6.61.19–20.
[ back ] 141. In this manner, Force is also connected with emphasis and allegorical modes of discourse in general since, as noted above, in rhetorical tradition enigmatic speech is the mode of emphasis par excellence.
[ back ] 142. Walz 6.62.29–63.5.
[ back ] 143. On Proklos’ tripartite division of poetry, see above n18 and my discussion below in this Chapter.
[ back ] 144. ᾿Αρεταὶ δὲ διηγήσεως δ ´· σαφήνεια, συντομία, πιθανότης καὶ ὁ τῶν ὀνομάτων ἑλληνισμός … ἡ δὲ φρόνησις ἀποσεμνύνει τὸν λόγον, παιδαγωγοῦσα τὸν ἐκ τῆς ἀλογίας ἐπιγενόμενον ἑσμὸν τῶν παθῶν. ἡ δὲ σωφροσύνη καταδεσμεῖ τὰς ἀτάκτους ἐπαναστάσεις, αἳ ταῖς ἀνθρωπίναις ἀεὶ εἰώθασιν ἐναποτίθεσθαι διανοίαις διὰ τὸν χοῦν πρὸς τὰ γεώδη διηνεκῶς ὁρᾷν τε καὶ φέρεσθαι· ἡ δὲ δικαιοσύνη τὴν ἰσότητα τοῖς ὁμοιειδέσι φυλάττει· τριῶν δὲ μερῶν ὄντων τῆς ψυχῆς δεῖ ἕκαστον ἀρετῇ κεκοσμῆσθαι· τὸ μὲν λογικὸν τῇ φρονήσει, ὁ δὲ θυμὸς τῇ ἀνδρείᾳ, ἡ δὲ ἐπιθυμία τῇ σωφροσύνῃ· καὶ ἐπειδὴ οὐ μόνον δεῖ ἕκαστον τῶν μερῶν ἰδίᾳ ἀρετῇ κεκοσμῆσθαι ἀλλὰ καὶ τὴν πρὸς ἄλληλα ἁρμονίαν καὶ εὐταξίαν φυλάττειν, τούτου χάριν ἡ δικαιοσύνη διὰ πάντων πεφοίτηκεν ἵνα μὴ ἐν ἑνὶ μέρει μόνῳ, καὶ ἐν πᾶσι θεωρουμένη τοῖς μέρεσιν ἁρμονίαν καὶ εὐταξίαν φυλάξῃ (Walz 3.665). For a discussion of this treatise in connection with Makrembolites’ novel, see also below in this Chapter.
[ back ] 145. For personification and allegory in ancient rhetorical tradition in general, see Rollinson 1981:25; see also Shapiro 1993:12–21 on pictorial and literary allegory; cf. Stelkens 1961. On Byzantine pictorial personification, see Popovich 1963.
[ back ] 146. The word drama in this passage is charged with metanarrative connotations since, as I noted above, in Byzantine literary criticism this word is used in connection with the genre of the novel. In the particular context of the discussion of the depicted Virtues in Hysmine and Hysminias, this word functions as a proleptic comment on the importance of the specific personifications for the overall development of the story.
[ back ] 147. Cf. also the use of the marked verb ὑπαινίττομαι in the explication of the personification of ᾿Ισχύς (2.6.4).
[ back ] 148. It should be recalled that Psellos has employed the theme of the Sphinx in one of his allegorizations; see discussion of this topic above in this Chapter.
[ back ] 149. LSJ s.v.
[ back ] 150. LSJ s.v.
[ back ] 151. For a discussion of the close interrelationship between epigram and image in Byzantine art, see Muñoz 1904a; Maguire 1996. Maguire contends that the changes in art throughout the Byzantine period are reflected in the way in which viewers express their responses to specific works of art in epigrams.
[ back ] 152. Macleod 1972: Herakles 4.
[ back ] 153. A number of twelfth-century literary examples that I have been able to collect indicate that the motif of the peculiar “Celtic” image of Herakles was popular among the Byzantine literati of the era. See e.g. Basilakes’ monody for his anonymous friend (Pignani 1983:254.28–30); Theodoros Prodromos’ monody for Konstantinos Hagiotheodorites (Majuri 1908:536–537); Eugeneianos’ verse monody for Theodoros Prodromos (Gallavotti 1935:222.15–19). A similar work by Lucian, Herodotos or Aetion, seems also to have enjoyed some popularity among twelfth-century Byzantine authors. In this work, Lucian deals with a painting that depicted Alexander and Roxana accompanied by cupids. Some echoes of this Lucianic ekphrasis can be detected, for example, in Manganeios Prodromos. For the last case, see Magdalino 1992:201n29; Magdalino, however, does not discuss the possible influence of Herakles on the aforementioned contemporaries of Manganeios Prodromos. For “description and interpretation in the second sophistic” in general, see Bartsch’s discussion in the homonymous chapter of her book (Bartsch 1989:3–39).
[ back ] 154. Suda mentions that Kebes was the author of the Tabula (s.v.). On Tabula’s Nachleben in Byzantium, see Downey 1959. Most probably the Tabula was known to Lucian, while some intriguing similarities between this text and Dion Chrysostomos have been also noted; see Fitzgerald and White 1983:7–8.
[ back ] 155. Praechter 1893:1.1.
[ back ] 156. For an overview of possible philosophical influences in the Tabula, see Fitzgerald and White 1983:20–27.
[ back ] 157. ῎Εστι γὰρ ἡ ἐξήγησις ἐοικυῖα τῷ τῆς Σφιγγὸς αἰνίγματι, ὃ ἐκείνη παρεβάλλετο τοῖς ἀνθρώποις. Εἰ μὲν οὖν αὐτὸ συνίει τις, ἐσώζετο, εἰ δὲ μὴ συνίει, ἀπώλετο ὑπὸ τῆς Σφιγγός. ῾Ωσαύτως δὲ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς ἐξηγήσεως ἔχει ταύτης. ῾Η γὰρ ἀφροσύνη τοῖς ἀνθρώποις Σφίγξ ἐστιν (Praechter 1893:3.2).
[ back ] 158. Praechter 1893:20–1.
[ back ] 159. On ekphrasis in Longos, see Kestner 1973/4; Hunter 1983:38–39.
[ back ] 160. Mittelstadt 1967.
[ back ] 161. For the interconnection between exegetical contemplation and ritual discourse, see the detailed discussion below in this Chapter.
[ back ] 162. Alexiou was the first to draw a systematic and sympathetic comparison between Makrembolites and Tatios (Alexiou 1977). For a discussion of Makrembolites’ debts to Achilleus Tatios, see also Polyakova 1979; Conca 1994b, especially 90–92, 101; Nilsson 2002. Nilsson’s overemphasized focus on Makrembolites’ dependence on Tatios and her overall formalistic approach does not always do justice to Makrembolites’ literary subtlety while occasionally undermining her own otherwise useful remarks.
[ back ] 163. Littlewood 1985:128–129.
[ back ] 164. ῾Ως τῆς δεξιᾶς ὑπ’ ἀμφοτέρων τῶν παντοκρατορικῶν ἐπειλημμένης χειρῶν καὶ ὅλον τὸν Πέτρον ὡς ἄλλον ᾿Αδὰμ ὡς ἐξ ᾄδου ἀναγουσῶν τοῦ βυθοῦ (Downey 1957:XXV.18). Maguire has identified an interesting parallel of this description in an eleventh-century commentary on Matthew’s Gospel (Maguire 1974:136). I would think, however, that this detail of Messarites’ description consciously applies a method of allegorical composition similar to the one which, as he himself notes in the same ekphrasis, was practiced by the advanced students at the school housed in the very church that he describes: ἕτεροι οἱ καὶ πρὸς τὰ μείζω καὶ τελεώτερα πεφθακότες πλοκὰς συνείρουσι νοημάτων καὶ τὸν τῶν γεγραμμένων νοῦν ἐς τὸν γρίφον μετασκευάζουσιν, ἄλλα μὲν λαλοῦντες γλώσσῃσιν, ἄλλα δὲ κεύθοντες ἐν φρεσίν (Downey 1957:VIII.3). Messarites’ information, unique in its explicitness, attests to the role of obscurity in the rhetorical education at the Constantinopolitan schools at the turn of the 12th-13th c.
[ back ] 165. Occasionally the authors of ekphraseis pretend a direct familiarity with the works of art that they describe, even when they draw from their literary rather than actual experience (see Maguire 1974, especially 115–117).
[ back ] 166. Mathew observes that for the Byzantines an image “could be the representation of the visible or the invisible, a shadow of the visible or a materialization of the invisible. In the latter case its meaning might only become clear to the initiate” (Mathew 1963:97).
[ back ] 167. Cf. e.g. Ioannes of Damaskos’ and Photios’ observations: ὁρῶμεν γὰρ εἰκόνας ἐν τοῖς κτίσμασι μηνύουσας ἡμῖν ἀμυδρῶς τὰς θείας ἐμφάσεις (PG 94.1241B); ὅλον δὲ τὸ ἔργον ἑαυτῆς [sc. ἡ ᾿Εκκλησία] δεικνῦσα καὶ ἀποφαίνουσα καθαρὰς ἡμῖν καὶ ἀκιβδήλως ἐν τοῖς σεπτοῖς εἰκονίσμασι τὰς τῶν πρωτοτύπων ἐμφάσεις … παρέχεται (PG 101.653D). Cf. also Kustas 1973:181–186. For the meaning of εἰκών in Neoplatonism and particularly in Proklos, see Coulter 1976:39–60.
[ back ] 168. Spengel 3.193–194.
[ back ] 169. Spengel 3.193.8–12
[ back ] 170. See below p. 156.
[ back ] 171. Piccolos 1853:221; cf. also the riddle on ζυγός attributed to Makrembolites in Hilberg 1876:214. The allegorical connection of Justice with a pair of scales is, of course, a well-known topos employed by several rhetoricians in their discussions of enigma (see e.g. Choiroboskos in Spengel 3.253.13–14; the anonymous in Spengel 3.209.14–15). For a pictorial association of Justice with zugos, see for instance the portrait of Nikephoros III in Coislin 79, 2r (Paris, Bibl. Nat.). The Emperor is flanked by two Virtues, Truth and Justice. Justice holds a pair of scales (Spatharakis 1976:110–111).
[ back ] 172. The original text in Criscuolo 1975/6:218.10–14.
[ back ] 173. ᾿Εν τῇ δεξιᾷ κατέχον ἄτρακτον μίτου λεπτοῦ, τοῖς εὐσυνέτοις ὑποσημαῖνον τὴν λεπτολογουμένην διάνοιαν φύσεώς τε πέρι καὶ ἀρετῆς, ἐν δὲ τῇ λαιᾷ, ἠρέμα πάνυ τὸ ὠλέκρανον περικυρτούσῃ, κόρην ἁπαλὴν περιφέρον, καλὴν τὸ εἶδος, θεοπρεπῆ τὸ χρῶμα, γυμνὴν ὀφθῆναι καὶ ἀληθὲς ἀποβεβλημένην πᾶσαν ἄλλην ῥᾳδιουργίαν, περίθετον τὴν ἀλήθειαν παρεμφαῖνον, ἣν ἡ φιλοσοφία ζητεῖ (Criscuolo 1975/6:219.25–30).
[ back ] 174. Criscuolo 1975/6:220.52–60.
[ back ] 175. Voltz 1894:548. The use of similar terms is relatively frequent in this specific work: σύμβολον (Voltz 1894:548), αἰνίττεται (Voltz 1894:448), ὑπαινίττεται (Voltz 1894:549), αἰνίττοιτο (Voltz 1894:550), σύμβολα (Voltz 1894:550). Voltz argues that this text is based on Makrembolites’ novel, but Polyakova has refuted his arguments (Polyakova 1971).
[ back ] 176. Leone 1972:100.
[ back ] 177. Romano 1974:74.
[ back ] 178. For allegorical pictorial representations of the Emperor’s virtues in Byzantium, see Magdalino 1992 and Magdalino and Nelson 1982:142–144, where special emphasis on the Virtues associated with Manuel I; cf. also above p. 162.
[ back ] 179. Miller 1855:124; trans. Mango 1972:247.
[ back ] 180. Miller 1855:126; trans. Mango 1972:247.
[ back ] 181. Miller 1855:126; trans. Mango 1972:247.
[ back ] 182. Miller 1855:126; trans. Mango 1972:247. Makrembolites puts a similar emphasis on the modest dressing of the personified Sophrosyne; see pp. 174–175.
[ back ] 183. Miller 1855:127, Mango 1972:247. The title of the epigram gives a full description of the painting: “On a picture of life which represents a tree, in which is a man gaping upwards and quaffing honey from above, while below, the roots are being devoured by mice;” cf. also the other epigrams on the same topic in Miller 1855:126–129. The symbolism in these epigrams recalls an allegorical image from the story of Barlaam and Ioasaph (Woodward 1914:112). The same image recurs later in the vernacular Cretan story of the Apokopos (S. Alexiou 1979:vv.38–50)
[ back ] 184. Modern literary theory, though, appears sometimes reluctant or too short-sighted to discern such complicated interrelationships. See, for example, the interesting but problematic in this respect “poetics of personification” proposed in Paxson 1994, which totally ignores the medieval Greek case. More balanced are the discussions of personification in Bronson 1947; Frank 1953; Bloomfield 1963; Zumthor, too, underlines the close interconnection between personification and allegory (Zumthor 1992:92); cf. also Barney 1979.
[ back ] 185. Fletcher 1964:26.
[ back ] 186. I use this term in its rhetorical sense. Hermogenes and other theoreticians of progumnasmata define it as a kind of ēthopoiia in which an inanimate object is given speech: Προσωποποιία δέ, ὅταν πράγματι περιτιθῶμεν πρόσωπον, ὥσπερ ῎Ελεγχος παρὰ Μενάνδρῳ, καὶ ὥσπερ παρὰ τῷ ᾿Αριστείδῃ ἡ θάλασσα ποιεῖται τοὺς λόγους πρὸς τοὺς ᾿Αθηναίους (Rabe 1913:20.9–12; see also my discussion of this term above in the previous Chapter). Other rhetoricians are more flexible in their definition of prosōpopoiia as far as the attribute of speech is concerned. For instance, the cases that an anonymous rhetorician adduces to illustrate the meaning of the term indicate that he understands prosōpopoiia as a trope of a more general character which attributes features of animate beings—not necessarily speech—to inanimate objects: προσωποποιία δὲ ἡ τοῖς ἀψύχοις πρόσωπον προστιθεῖσα καὶ λόγους αὐτοῖς ἁρμοδίους προσάπτουσα, οἷον τὸ “εὐφραινέσθωσαν οἱ οὐρανοὶ” καὶ τὸ “εἶδεν ἡ θάλασσα καὶ ἔφυγεν” (Spengel 3.212).
[ back ] 187. Piccolos 1853; see also above, pp. 30–31.
[ back ] 188. Keil 1889:110–115.
[ back ] 189. Keil 1889:118.
[ back ] 190. Keil 1889:118.1.
[ back ] 191. Some Byzantine epigrams that were either inspired by works of art or inscribed on them give voice to the depicted personifications, which speak in the first person singular. See, for example, Prodromos’ poem on the painted Bios (PG 133.1419A). It is also worth noting that in Makrembolites the interpretation of the personifications of the Months preserves the convention of the use of the second-person singular also encountered in the aforementioned literary prosōpopoiiai. In Hysmine and Hysminias, the allusion to this kind of literary prosōpopoiia is created through the absence of any concrete speaker or addressee, although one could assume that the use of the second-person singular indicates an elliptic dialogue between the two friends: ῾Ορᾷς τὸν γηπόνον ἐπ’ ἄροτρον; οὗτος ἐστιν ὁ καιρός, ὃν καί τις σοφὸς ἐκ τῶν Πληιάδων εἰς ἄροτρον ἠκριβώσατο (4.18.10; cf. also 4.18.12).
[ back ] 192. Dreams play an important role in both the ancient Greek and the Byzantine novel. On this traditional motif in Byzantine novel, see Alexiou 1977; MacAlister 1990; 1991; also Nilsson 2002. MacAlister convincingly connects the revival and reworking of this motif with the composition of commentaries on Aristotle in the twelfth century. These scholars do not view the dreams in this novel in terms of their possible contribution to the allegorical modulations of the narrative.
[ back ] 193. Καὶ ἦν ἔρις παρ’ ἡμῖν Σωφροσύνης καὶ ῎Ερωτος, εἰ μή τις Αἰδὼ τὴν Σωφροσύνην ἐκείνην ἐθέλει καλεῖν· ὁ μὲν γὰρ ὡς ἀπὸ γῆς μοι κρατῆρας ἀνῆπτε πυρός, ἡ δὲ ὡς ἐξ οὐρανοῦ τὴν κόρην ἐψέκαζεν· ὁ μὲν ὅλας ἐξεκένου φαρέτρας, ἡ δ’ Αἰδὼς τῇ παρθένω ἀσπὶς ἑπταβόειος· ὁ μέ μοι τὴν ἐν χερσὶ λαμπάδα κατ’ ὀφθαλμῶν ἀνῆψεν ἐρωτικῶς καὶ τὴν φλόγα πρὸς τὴν ψυχὴν μετερρίπιζεν, ἡ δ’ ὅλας πηγὰς δακρύων ἐκ τῶν τῆς κόρης ὀφθαλμῶν ἀνεστόμωσεν. ᾿Αλλ’ ὕδωρ Αἰδοῦς ῎Ερωτος πῦρ οὐ κατέκλυσεν, ἀλλ’ ἤδη στεφανίτης ἐγώ, καὶ Σωφροσύνης ῎Ερως ἐκράτησεν ἄν, εἰ μή τις περὶ τὴν πύλην γενόμενος … τὴν ῾Υσμίνην ἐζήτει (4.23.1–3). Cupane, finding parallels of psychological personification in Western tradition, thinks that this passage bespeaks the influence of the Western literature of the time on Makrembolites (Cupane 1974a:270–274). In my view, this passage does not reflect a literary tendency different from that attested in Tzetzes’ allegories—especially in those in which he applies his psychological method—in mid-twelfth century Constantinople. A parallel psychological personification can be found in Manasses’ novel fr. 96, where Eros and Thymos are presented as anthropomorphic neighbors and possible collaborators. Achilleus Tatios provides a similar case in 6.10.4–5. Far from pointing to its alleged Western origins, therefore, this passage in Hysmine and Hysminias attests to the connection of this novel with the preoccupation of contemporary Byzantines with allegorical tropes, which in turn are more or less based on ancient Greek models.
[ back ] 194. This is a phrase commonly employed in patristic literature. See Plepelits 1989:181–182n20. In a generally interesting article on the novel, MacAlister prefers to associate it specifically with Thalassios Abbas (7th c.) and Nikolaos Kataskepenos (12th c.) while ignoring the other examples mentioned by Plepelits (Plepelits 1989:202–204; MacAlister 1991:203–205). It is worth noting that the same idea may be traced back to Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics 1106b36). MacAlister points to the ambiguity of Makrembolites’ diction here, but she does not explain it. She views this manipulation of the language of spirituality as a manifestation of a polemic on the part of the author. Her argument for a polemic undercurrent here is tempting but rather vague since it does not define the target of Makrembolites’ alleged criticism. In a more recent article (MacAlister 1994), MacAlister appears less reluctant to accept the allegorical character of the novel, without revising her overall approach to it, as this was developed in her 1991 article. Cupane takes the image literally. In her view, this detail points to Makrembolites’ alleged echoes of Gothic and Romanesque art where parallel depictions of Eros and Virtues appear (Cupane 1974a:251–252). Both Cupane and MacAlister do not pay enough attention to the ironic character of this phrase that purports to convey the present attitude of the homodiegetic narrator (Hysminias) toward Eros rather than a truth endorsed by the author himself. In any case, the end of the story with the harmonious union of the two young lovers, that is, with the ultimate victory of Eros, shows that in this novel Eros is not presented as a force necessarily equivalent to a Vice.
[ back ] 195. It was the personifications in Makrembolites’ novel rather than its quality as a literary text that first attracted scholars’ attention. Already at the end of the nineteenth century, the depictions of the Months gave rise to some insightful observations about the relation of Makrembolites’ descriptions to similar illustrations in manuscripts of religious texts (see Strzygowski 1888; Keil 1889; Voltz 1894). The main objective of those studies, though, was not the analysis of the personifications of the novel themselves but the elucidation of issues related to the iconography of the Months in Byzantine art in general. Not until the beginning of the 1970’s did Makrembolites’ personifications become the subject of a comprehensive analysis for their own sake (Polyakova 1971; Cupane 1974a). In an interesting article, Cupane was the first to focus on Makrembolites’ depiction of Eros, whose innovative elements she attributed to influences of Western literature on the medieval Greek author. More recently, Magdalino persuasively suggested that Makrembolites’ description of Eros was inspired by the environment of the Emperor Manuel I (Magdalino 1992). Neither scholar, however, discusses the significance of the personification of Eros for the development of the whole novel systematically. For the personification of the Months in Byzantine art and its relation to Western tradition, see also Webster 1938:23–26; 87; for the personification of the Virtues in Western Europe, see Tuve 1966:57–143. Katzenellenbogen 1939 remains highly informative. Important is the discussion in Jauss 1960, where an emphasis on the significance of the late twelfth century for the flourishing of allegorical personification in Western European literature; on this, see also Muscatine 1953.
[ back ] 196. Magdalino 1992:199. In an oration in honor of the “purple-born Isaakios Komnenos,” son of Alexios I, Theodoros Prodromos envisages Isaakios sitting on a throne surrounded by some personified virtues: Τόλμη and ῾Ρώμη—who apparently correspond to ᾿Ισχύς—Φρόνησις, Δικαιοσύνη—who holds a balance—Σωφροσύνη, Γραμματική, and ῾Ρητορική (Kurtz 1907:114); see also above p. 156.
[ back ] 197. Beaton observes that “the wings [of Eros] in particular, visually realized according to Makrembolites’ description, actually risk being more absurd than impressive” (1996a:156). Beaton does not propose any interpretation of the detail under discussion.
[ back ] 198. “Le sue gambe non terminano come negli esseri umani, con i piedi, ma con due ali” (Cupane 1974a:254). She returns to this interpretation on 255n33 of the same article, where she categorically notes that “nel nostro testo è detto chiaramente che Eros ha ali al posto dei piedi e non ali ai piedi.” Based on this reading of the Greek text, she discards the evidence of a representation of Eros with winged sandals adduced by Furtwängler as irrelevant to Makrembolites’ depiction of Eros. She therefore proposes the undoubtedly valid, but too general, interpretation that the wings of Eros symbolize the velocity of love. Magdalino tacitly adopts Cupane’s reading of the Greek but he adds that the author may have been inspired by the religious iconography of the Hexapteryga, the six-winged angels (Magdalino 1992:199). The same interpretation had been suggested earlier by Plepelits (Plepelits 1989:35). Plepelits’s understanding of Makrembolites’ text is rather obscure. In his introduction, he seems to accept a loose reading of the text (“aus seinen Füssen wachsen Flügel”; Plepelits 1989:35), while in his translation, he opts for a more specific rendering of the text (“seine Füsse waren nicht nach Menschenart, sondern zur Gänze Flügel”; Plepelits 1989:93). In any case, Plepelits’s overall interpretation of the personification of Eros is rather far-fetched—in accordance with his overall interpretation of the novel as a mystical religious composition in which Hysmine assumes the role of an allegory of the Church or of Christ’s hypostasis while Hysminias is supposed to assume the function of a soldier or a slave in the service of Christ. Plepelits does not take into account the possibility of any allusions in the novel, in general, or of the personifications, in particular, to the contemporary Byzantine political or cultural context. One of Plepelits’s basic arguments for such an allegorical reading of the novel is that its author became a monk at some point in his life. In turn, this argument is based on Plepelits’s attribution of the text to Ioannes Doukas, the brother of the Emperor Konstantinos Doukas (1059–1067). Doukas, according to Plepelits, covered himself under the name of the narrator’s addressee (Χαριδούξ) because he wanted to protect his reputation from a possible criticism due to the scandalous content of his novel (Plepelits 1989:4). Such a rather circular argumentation leaves unresolved its inherent logical contradiction: why was the author afraid with regard to his reputation if he had really invested his novel with the particular allegorical meaning that Plepelits finds in it? For the motif of Eros in Makrembolites and its connections with Achilleus Tatios, see more recently Nilsson 2002:202–208.
[ back ] 199. Phaedrus 252B.
[ back ] 200. The same interpretation is unquestioningly adopted by Nilsson (Nilsson 2002:203). Makrembolites is nowhere as explicit as Cupane seems to assume. He nowhere says explicitly that Eros had wings instead of feet; on the contrary, later in his novel it is said that Eros flies with his feet, ἐπτερύξατο τοῖν ποδοῖν (7.19.1); πτερυξάμενον τοῖν ποδοῖν (ἦν γὰρ πτερωτὸν τώ πόδε; 11.14.1).
[ back ] 201. As I noted above, in one of his letters Ioannes Tzetzes refers to Lysippos’ representation of Kairos (Chronos [Time] in Tzetzes’ account). Among other features, Tzetzes recalls Kairos’ “winged feet” (τῶν ποδῶν πτέρωσις). In this description, Tzetzes indicates that there was some debate in his days as to the real meaning of this personification. Tzetzes disdainfully refutes the view of those who believed that Lysippos symbolized Bios and contends that Lyssipos’ Kairos represented Chronos (Time): Οὕτω πως σοφῶς ὁ Λύσσιπος ἐνουθέτησε μὴ καθυστερίζειν καιροῦ, τοιαύτῃ τὸν χρόνον ἀναστηλώσας γραφῇ, κἂν ἀκαιρηγοροῦντες δοκητίαι τινὲς ἀκρίτως εἶναι βίου ταύτην παραληρῶσιν εἰκόνισμα (Leone 1972:100). A poem by Theodoros Prodromos identifies a similar personification with Bios rather than with Chronos, as Cook has already pointed out (Cook 1965:865). In Prodromos’ poem, the personified Bios speaks about the wings at his feet: περὶ τὰς κνήμας μου πτερά· φεύγω, παρίπταμαί σε (PG 133.1419A). Manuel Philes, too, composed a poem on the personified Bios, who is portrayed as a nude youth with winged feet (Miller 1855:32 no. 67). Kedrenos refers to the sculpture of Kairos (Chronos) by Lyssipos. Kedrenos claims that this sculpture was at the palace of Lausos in Constantinople (Bekker 1838b:I.564; for a twelfth-century relief of the personified Kairos, see also Dalton 1911:159). In Byzantine manuscripts, Kairos is usually depicted standing on wheels; see Martin 1954:50–51; also Munoz 1904b; Grecu 1940. Lamer 1508–1521 remains a valuable and highly informative discussion of the iconography of Kairos in Greek tradition. The interchangeability of the pictorial characteristics and the corresponding allegorical functions of Kairos, Chronos, and Bios points to the possible fluidity of the iconographic vocabulary of such personifications. The case of Makrembolites’ Eros may be similar. The symbolic function of the wings of Bios or Kairos as interpreted by Tzetzes, Prodromos, or Philes is not different from the function of Eros’ wings, as this is illustrated at least in Longos’ novel (2.4–7).
[ back ] 202. On Psellos and his ideas about aiōn, see Benakis 1980/1; for Proklos’ influence on him, see Westerink 1959. Gregorios of Nazianzos was another important source of inspiration for Psellos’ theoretical exploration of the subject; for an analysis of the concept of time and eternity in the Fathers, see Balás 1976. For Nikolaos of Methone, see Angelou 1984.
[ back ] 203. Buchthal 1961:2–4.
[ back ] 204. As in Makrembolites, in both manuscripts Φρόνησις points to her forehead; ᾿Ανδρεία has the appearance of a soldier (Buchtal 1961:4); in Marcianus, Δικαιοσύνη holds a balance (see Buchtal 1961:5, pl. 4); one may assume that the depiction of her missing “sister” in the Melbourne manuscript must have been similar (Buchtal 1961:4); Σωφροσύνη is different because in the manuscripts she points to her lips (Buchtal 1961:4). Even this last case, though, recalls Makrembolites’ emphasis on the importance of silence, on which, see below in this Chapter.
[ back ] 205. Lambros 1911:29; trans. Mango 1972:225.
[ back ] 206. The text in Anderson and Jeffreys 1994:11.
[ back ] 207. Rhalles and Potles 1852:2.545–546.
[ back ] 208. Van Dieten 1975:332.36–37; trans. Mango 1972:235. On the Anemodoulion, cf. also Mango 1972:44.
[ back ] 209. See also Alexiou’s rereading of Hysmine and Hysminias in Alexiou 2002b:119–127.
[ back ] 210. LSJ s.v.
[ back ] 211. See Plepelits 1989:21–22; Beaton tried to explain the spelling of the name of the heroine by drawing a parallel between Hysmine and Ysmaine, as Ismene, Antigone’s sister, is called in Roman de Thèbes, a mid-twelfth century roman d’antiquité (1989:78). This parallelism does not explain the homonymy of the heroes in Makrembolites’ novel and ignores the subtle connotations of the Greek ὑσμίνη that I discuss here. However, in the second edition of his book, Beaton rightly omits this paragraph, the main purpose of which was to suggest a late twelfth-century date for the novel; see Beaton 1996a:211–212; 242n53.
[ back ] 212. This was the name of a flutist from Thebes, to whom Nikephoros Basilakes devoted an ēthopoiia (Pignani 1983:217–221; cf. also Magdalino 1992:204).
[ back ] 213. Diehl 1903–1906:3.225D; cf. Plepelits 1989:22n53.
[ back ] 214. In his introduction, where he presents his allegorical method, Ioannes Diakonos Galenos praises explicitly Plotinos and Sokrates, and presents them as enviable models of inspired educators: Τοιοῦτον δὲ πάντως τὸ μεταληπτικὸν εἶδος τοῦ λόγου καὶ ἀλληγορικόν, οὐ μέχρις ἀκοῆς παραμένον, ἀλλ’ ἔνδον καὶ εἰς ψυχὴν ἀφικνούμενον νοεράν τε καὶ τῆς ἀληθοῦς ἐφιεμένην γνώσεως. Αἰνῶ δὲ ἄρα καὶ Πλωτῖνον ἐκεῖνον, κἂν τῶν θύραθεν οὗτός ἐστι, παρεγγυώμενον τοῖς νέοις τὰ μαθήματα παραδίδοσθαι, πρὸς συνεθισμὸν τῆς ἀσωμάτου φύσεως· ἔτι δὲ καὶ Σωκράτην ἕωθεν ἀνισταμένοις παρακελευόμενον, τὴν ἱερὰν καὶ ἀρρενωπὸν κατασπάζεσθαι μουσικήν (Flach 1876:296); on Galenos’ allegorization of Theogony, see above pp. 128–130.
[ back ] 215. Flach 1876:298–300. I discern here specific echoes of Neoplatonic allegorization; cf. for instance Proklos’ relevant observations in his commentary on Timaios about the method of the philosopher Theodoros of Asine who is reported to have indulged in the symbolic meaning of letters and numbers: τὸ μὲν οὖν πρῶτον ἄρρητον αὐτῷ καὶ ἀνεκλάλητον καὶ πηγὴ τῶν πάντων καὶ τῆς ἀγαθότητος αἴτιον καλῶς ἀνύμνηται. μετὰ δὲ τοῦτο τὸ οὕτως ἐξῃρημένον τῶν ὅλων τριάς ἐστιν ἡ τὸ νοητὸν αὐτῷ πλάτος ὁρίζουσα, ἣν καλεῖ τὸ ἕν, ἔκ τε τοῦ ἄσθματος οὖσαν τοῦ ἀρρήτου πως ὄντος, ὃ μιμεῖται ἡ δασεῖα τοῦ ἕν, καὶ ἐκ τῆς ἁψίδος αὐτοῦ τοῦ ε̄ μόνου, χωρὶς τοῦ συμφώνου, καὶ αὐτοῦ ἤδη τοῦ ν̄ (Diehl 1903–1906:225 B). Worth noting also is the usage of the marked term ἀνασειράζω in Galenos’ interpretation, which alludes to the word σειρά (on which, see pp. 175–178). Psellos, too, composed an interesting allegorical interpretation of the Greek alphabet; his text is in Duffy 1992:120–141. It should be recalled here that numerology also plays an important role in Philippos’ allegorization of the Aithiopika (see above p. 133).
[ back ] 216. West 1966:l.228.
[ back ] 217. Tzetzes, who seems to have composed his commentary around 1135–1140 (West 1978:69), criticizes Proklos bitterly and rather unjustly: ῾Ο μὲν σοφὸς Πρόκλος ἐπεξηγούμενος τὴν παροῦσαν βίβλον τῶν ῎Εργων καὶ ῾Ημερῶν τοῦ ῾Ησιόδου οὐδὲν γενναῖον, καὶ τῇ ἐκείνου σοφίᾳ ἁρμόδιον, οὔτε ἄξιον ἐξειργάσατο (Gaisford 1820:10–11). For Proklos’ scholia on Hesiod, see the informative discussions by Faraggiana di Sarzana, who refutes Tzetzes’ vehement criticism against his Neoplatonic predecessor (Faraggiana di Sarzana 1978; 1981). For the philological preoccupation of twelfth-century Byzantine scholars with the Works and Days, cf. also Bryer 1986:51–52.
[ back ] 218. Gaisford 1820:44.46–47; 49.
[ back ] 219. In the passage where Hysminias recalls his attempt against Hysmine’s virginity, ἔρις is, very significantly, the word that describes the fight between the personified abstractions of Eros and Sophrosyne (4.23.1); on this, see the discussion below.
[ back ] 220. Van der Valk 1971–1987:3.154.
[ back ] 221. Van der Valk 1971–1987:3.153.
[ back ] 222. Van der Valk 1971–1987:3.542–543.
[ back ] 223. For an interesting discussion of the notion of “sememe,” see Riffaterre 1990:5–7.
[ back ] 224. In addition to the examples discussed here other cases where the word or the concept of eris is employed in Hysmine and Hysminias include 3.2.5; 3.2.7; 3.5.7; 3.7; 4.20.6; 5.8.1; 5.10.1; 5.14.4–5; 7.5.1; 7.6.2; 7.8.1; 7.9.2; 7.10; 7.14.2; 7.17.4–7; 7.18.5; 8.13.2.
[ back ] 225. The same image is later employed in Hysminias’ account of his erotic encounter with Hysmine in one of his dreams. Once more, the idea of battle is conveyed through the usage of the marked term eris (5.3.2).
[ back ] 226. Cf. Hesiod Works and Days 519 (West 1978).
[ back ] 227. Here and in the next Hesiodic excerpt I follow West’s translation of Hesiod’s Works and Days (West 1988).
[ back ] 228. The north wind “makes an old man bowl along. And the tender-skinned girl he does not blow through, who stays inside the house with her dear mother, not yet acquainted with the affairs of golden Aphrodite” (trans. West 1988; τροχαλὸν δὲ γέροντα τίθησιν/καὶ διὰ παρθενικῆς ἁπαλόχροος οὐ διάησιν,/ἥ τε δόμων ἔντοσθε φίλῃ παρὰ μητέρι μίμνει,/οὔπω ἔργα ἰδυῖα πολυχρύσου ᾿Αφροδίτης; Works and Days 518–521, West 1978).
[ back ] 229. Cf. Podskalsky 1977:114–116; Magdalino 1993:332–333; Angold 1995:52. The reaction against the fashion of Proklan philosophy culminates in the late 1150’s–early 1160’s with a treatise by Nikolaos of Methone (see Angelou 1984 and below in this Chapter). For the influence of Proklos on medieval Greek letters, and especially on Psellos, see Westerink 1942; 1959. The impact of Proklos on twelfth-century Byzantine intellectuals is also evinced, I believe, by Theodoros Prodromos’ references to him in three of his satirical pieces (Podestà 1947:6.55; 13.12; du Theil 1810:114; the latter attests to the interpretive authority of Proklos’ commentaries on Plato’s Alkibiades and Timaios). For the reception of Proklan philosophy in the Western Middle Ages, see Bos and Meijer 1992, where, however, is conspicuous the unjustified absence of any discussion of the philosopher’s medieval Greek Nachhleben. In Western Europe, the twelfth century saw a significant flourishing of the study and literary manipulation of (Neo)Platonic philosophy. On this subject, see Wetherbee 1972; Dronke 1988. Still valuable remains Chenu 1957, especially 108–141. For the reception of Platonism in the Middle Ages, see also the collection of essays in Beierwaltes 1969.
[ back ] 230. In his Chronographia, Psellos juxtaposes Proklos with the other Neoplatonists and singles him out as the most important representative of this philosophical school: ᾿Εντεῦθεν οὖν ὁρμηθεὶς αὖθις ὥσπερ περίοδον ἐκπληρῶν ἐς Πλωτίνους καὶ Πορφυρίους καὶ ᾿Ιαμβλίχους κατῄειν, μεθ’ οὓς ὁδῷ προβαίνων εἰς τὸν θαυμασιώτατον Πρόκλον ὡς ἐπὶ λιμένα μέγιστον κατασχών, πᾶσαν ἐκεῖθεν ἐπιστήμην τε καὶ νοήσεων ἀκριβείαν ἔσπεισα (Renauld 1928:I.136). On the influence of Neoplatonism, and particularly of Proklos, on Psellos, see Zervos 1920; Westerink 1942; 1959; cf. also Hussey 1937:71f and above pp. 121–123.
[ back ] 231. See the homonymous article by Podskalsky, which examines the reception of Proklos in eleventh- and twelfth-century Byzantium (Podskalsky 1976). Some of his views are further discussed in Benakis 1987.
[ back ] 232. Podskalsky 1976:519.
[ back ] 233. Benakis 1987:254–255; Magdalino 1993:333; see also my discussion in the next Chapter.
[ back ] 234. See Maguire 1974:135, who, however, does not take into account either Makrembolites’ use of the Homeric image or its possible allegorical connotations. Twelfth-century examples include Messarites’ description of the church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople and an anonymous ekphrasis of a dynastic portrait depicting Manuel I with his father Ioannes and his son Alexios. It is worth noting that Messarites employs the Homeric image when he refers to a mosaic portraying the Apostles who run toward the resurrected Christ. To my view, here the metaphor might have preserved some of its allegorical allusiveness. Much earlier, in the sixth century, Prokopios employed a similar diction in his description of the dome of St Sophia (Maguire 1974:135).
[ back ] 235. This second aspect has already been pointed out by Plepelits, who, nevertheless, does not pay proper attention to the Neoplatonic dimensions of the image. In accordance with his overall approach to the text, he emphasizes the alleged Christian aspects of this detail without studying it within its broader twelfth-century cultural and historical context (Plepelits 1989:33).
[ back ] 236. Psellos refers explicitly to Proklos, Iamblichos, and Porphyrios (Duffy 1992:166.40–42; 65–81). The Neoplatonic philosophers are accorded the praise of οἱ θεολογικώτεροι τῶν ῾Ελλήνων (Duffy 1992:166.31).
[ back ] 237. For the Proklan interpretation of this motif, see Fauth 1974:283.
[ back ] 238. Henads 3.5.
[ back ] 239. Nygren 1969:571.
[ back ] 240. ῾Η τοίνυν ἐρωτικὴ πᾶσα σειρὰ τῆς τοῦ κάλλους αἰτίας προβεβλημένη συνάγει πάντα πρὸς αὐτὴν καὶ ἀνακαλεῖται πρὸς τὴν μέθεξιν αὐτῆς καὶ μέσην ἐποιήσατο πρόοδον τοῦ τε ἐραστοῦ καὶ τῶν δι’ ἔρωτος ἀναγομένων (Proklos on Alkibiades I, Westerink 1954:31, 1–5). In this respect, it is noteworthy that in Makrembolites, Eros is described as a youth of unequalled beauty and, in fact, an image (reflection) of Zeus: τὰ δέ γε περὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν οὕτω τερπνὸν τὸ μειράκιον, ὑπὲρ μειράκιον πᾶν, ὑπὲρ πᾶσαν παρθένον, θεῶν ἄγαλμα, εἴδωλον Διός, ὅλος κεστὸς ᾿Αφροδίτης, Χαρίτων ὅλος λειμών, ὅλος ἡδονή (2.7.3). On this description, see also below p. 180.
[ back ] 241. E. and M. Jeffreys, forth.:45.1–8.
[ back ] 242. E. and M. Jeffreys, forth.:17–23.
[ back ] 243. E. and M. Jeffreys, forth.:55–63.
[ back ] 244. 1.9.4. Similar is the description of gaze as a channel of erōs later in the novel (5.13). For a brief discussion of this scene from another perspective, see Chapter Four.
[ back ] 245. Phaedrus 255D. For the image of the mirror in Plato’s discussion of homosexual love, see Frontisi-Ducroux and Vernant 1997:127–128, where also interesting comments on Tatios’ depiction of heterosexual love; on Tatios, see also Bychkov 1999. For a discussion of the motif of love at first sight in ancient and medieval Greek romance, cf. Jouanno 1994.
[ back ] 246. This motif can be traced back to the ancient Greek novel (see, for instance, Achilleus Tatios 2.9). In Makrembolites, the metonymic function of the cup as a messenger of the love between the two lovers is underlined in a description that employs again the metaphor of the mirror. At this time it is an element of the material world—the cup—that reflects an element of a higher order—the hero’s beloved and her ethereal beauty: τὸ δ’ ἔκπωμα κάτοπτρον ὅλην αὐτὴν τὴν κόρην σὺν αὐταῖς Χάρισι, σὺν αὐταῖς ῾Ηδοναῖς μεταβιβάζον μου περὶ τὴν ψυχήν (5.12.4).
[ back ] 247. Rosán 1949:68–73.
[ back ] 248. For the motif of the two young lovers as siblings in the Komnenian novels, see the next section of this Chapter.
[ back ] 249. Nygren 1969:570. In my view, Gersh’s criticism of Nygren’s alleged understatement of the traditional quality of Proklan Eros as ascending love is not justified. Gersh contends that Nygren ignores the fact that Eros’ descending aspect is connected with its ascending one (Gersh 1973:127). Gersh has misunderstood Nygren. Nygren does not view the first action of Eros independently from its second one but he rightly puts special emphasis on the importance of Proklos’ innovation.
[ back ] 250. Westerink 1954:52, 10–12.
[ back ] 251. Rosán 1949:206.
[ back ] 252. There is, of course, the episode of Eros’ epiphany in Longos 2.3. But Eros’ function there is substantially different from the active role he performs in Makrembolites’ novel. Eros’ epiphany in Longos does not constitute an incident organically incorporated into the story but a part of Philetas’ narrative. Closer to Hysmine and Hysminias are, rather, the dreams in Longos, where Eros appears to the foster-fathers of the heroes (1.7) and Daphnis’ real father (4.34), thus interfering, in a sense, in the development of the story. Even in these instances, Eros’ role is not as active as Morgan suggests in his analysis of Longos’ novel (Morgan 1994a:74–75), and definitely less so than his decisive function in Makrembolites’ novel.
[ back ] 253. On Proklan demonology, see Coulter 1976:54–60.
[ back ] 254. Fletcher 1964:59–66. It is notable that in his theoretical discussion of allegory Fletcher, too, defines allegorical characters and personified powers in terms of “demonic agents” (Fletcher 1964:25–69).
[ back ] 255. It is worth noting, I think, that in his homily on a passage from the Gospel according to Luke, Philippos (Philagathos) Kerameus, the same author who composed the allegorical exegesis of the Aithiopika discussed earlier in this Chapter, offers a fascinating discussion of the allegorical associations between the four primary natural elements and the virtues. His allegorical exploration is part of a broader explication of the mystical and ethical significance of the four Gospels. Ether, he says, is connected with phronēsis, which is the virtue that marks John’s Gospel. Air is symbolically linked with andreia, the virtue that permeates Luke’s Gospel. Water is associated with sōphrosunē, the virtue foregrounded in Mark’s Gospel. Finally, earth is the symbol of dikaiosunē, which characterizes Matthew’s Gospel (Taibi-Rossi 1969:32–33).
[ back ] 256. Rosán 1949:204–209.
[ back ] 257. For an overview of erōs in Byzantium, see Beck 1986a.
[ back ] 258. Gärtner 1971:325.
[ back ] 259. Winkler offers an exaggerated reading of the ancient Greek novel and, for that matter, of Greek culture and society in late antiquity when he contends that love-in-marriage as depicted in the ancient Greek novel is an artistic rather than a social ideal with “virtually no representational value” (Winkler 1994:36).
[ back ] 260. Cooper 1996:20–44; cf. Goldhill 1995; see also Haynes 2003:156–162.
[ back ] 261. On the ideal of sōphrosunē in early Christianity North 1966 (312–379) remains a very helpful study; see also Brown 1988. Insightful is the discussion of the rhetoric of virginity in Cameron 1989 as well.
[ back ] 262. Book of Wisdom 8.7.
[ back ] 263. Acts 26.25; II Corinthians 5.13.
[ back ] 264. Romans 12.3.
[ back ] 265. To Timotheos I 2.9; 3.2; To Titon 1.8; 2.6.
[ back ] 266. It is notable that an anonymous Christian rhetorician chooses the idea of sōphrosunē as an exemplary topic of the progumnasma of chreia (Walz 3.601–604). His discussion is illustrated with the sanctioned story of Ioseph’s temperance. On this motif, see also p. 37.
[ back ] 267. Cavarnos 1952:339–341.
[ back ] 268. PG 37.643–648.
[ back ] 269. PG 37.648–649.
[ back ] 270. PG 37.737–738; 745–746.
[ back ] 271. Corinthians 7.38; Musurillo 1963:29–51.
[ back ] 272. Musurillo 1963:176.1–5; 300.114–301.132.
[ back ] 273. Musurillo 1963:150.31–166.12.
[ back ] 274. Musurillo 1963:166.1–12. For Methodios’ use of the imagery of the Song of Songs, see also below in this Chapter.
[ back ] 275. Musurillo 1963:172.15–176.13.
[ back ] 276. Musurillo 1963:175.31–179.1.
[ back ] 277. Musurillo 1963:300.107–302.1.
[ back ] 278. I am quoting from the translation in E. and M. Jeffreys, forth.
[ back ] 279. E. and M. Jeffreys, forth.:215–217.
[ back ] 280. Sbordone 1936:28.3–7.
[ back ] 281. Tatios 3.25.
[ back ] 282. E. and M. Jeffreys forth.:208–209.
[ back ] 283. Manganeios employs the same imagery in his poem on Eros (E. and M. Jeffreys forth.:45.81–158).
[ back ] 284. The text in Dübner 1846:3.83–94.
[ back ] 285. Dübner 1846:51–52. Prodromos refers to Empedokles in other works of his (see e.g. Rhodanthe and Dosikles 9.425; also his satire Executioner or Doctor in Podestà 1947:20.173–179; his poem Against the Long-Bearded Old Man Who Thinks That He Is Wise, in Boissonade 1832:v.39; also interesting is his satirical appropriation of themes of Empedoklean philosophy in his satire Amarantos or the Love Affairs of an Old Man, du Theil 1810:123–124). In one of his letters, Michael Italikos, who, as we have seen, was involved in intellectual exchanges with Theodoros Prodromos, offers some relatively extensive comments on Empedokles; see the letter 29 in Gautier’s edition (Gautier 1972:194–195).
[ back ] 286. Dübner 1846:93–96.
[ back ] 287. Dübner 1846:125–134.
[ back ] 288. Isaac 1982:74. It is worth noting that Isaak Komnenos illustrates his discussion of Pronoia with the Biblical example of Ioseph. According to Isaak, the temptation to which Ioseph was subjected was a moral test contrived by Pronoia. After this ordeal, Isaak argues, Ioseph’s sōphrosunē became even stronger.
[ back ] 289. The analytical theoretical concept of “ritual poetics” has been proposed in Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2003a, especially 2003b. See also Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2005a:5–7.
[ back ] 290. For pilgrimage in medieval Greek contexts, see Talbot 2002; Weyl Carr 2002; cf. Vican 1982, especially 1–8. On travel in Byzantium, see Galatariotou 1993; also the papers collected in Macrides 2002, especially Kuelzer 2002, which is an informative account of late Byzantine and of post-Byzantine pilgrimage, and Mullett 2002, especially 269–272, where a brief discussion of the motif of shipwreck in the Byzantine novels. For an interesting study of pilgrimage in modern Greece, cf. Dubish 1995.
[ back ] 291. See Turner and Turner 1978; cf. Turner 1974b.
[ back ] 292. Turner and Turner 1978:7–34.
[ back ] 293. Turner and Turner 1978:10.
[ back ] 294. Lotman 1990:172. Lotman offers an insightful discussion of the motif of travel in medieval and modern literature, Lotman 1990:171–202. For the motif of pilgrimage in Western European medieval literature, cf. Holloway 1987.
[ back ] 295. This festival is also referred to in Charidemos, an anonymous pseudo-Lucianic satire composed most probably in the eleventh century (Macleod 1987:4.1).
[ back ] 296. In his discussion of Heliodoros, Rutherford independently reaches comparable conclusions about the ritual role of Theagenes in the Aithiopika (Rutherford 2005).
[ back ] 297. Pausanias 2.35.11; cf. Elsner 1995:146.
[ back ] 298. Pausanias 1.38.7.
[ back ] 299. Elsner 1995:147.
[ back ] 300. Καλὸν δέ σοι καὶ ὕπνου τυχεῖν· ὀφθαλμὸς γὰρ ἐξ ἔρωτος ἄγρυπνήσας ἐλέγχει ψυχὴν ἐρῶσαν· καὶ ὥσπερ γλῶσσα φιλοκέρτομος οὐκ οἶδε κρύπτειν μυστήριον, οὕτως ὀφθαλμὸς ὕπνου στερηθεὶς φαυλίζει τὸν ἔρωτα (3.3.4). Kratisthenes had also previously castigated Hysminias’ talkativeness by quoting a passage from Hesiod’s Works and Days (719–720): καὶ τὴν ἐμὴν ἐλοιδόρει γλῶσσαν “γλώττης τοι” λέγων “θησαυρὸς ἐν ἀνθρώποισιν ἄριστος “φειδωλῆς, πλείστη δὲ χάρις κατὰ μέτρον ἰούσης” (1.13.2). Cf. the emphasis on silence in Hysminias’ previous encounters with Hysmine in 1.10.3; 1.11.3; 1.12.4; 2.12.2.
[ back ] 301. On aposiōpēsis, see Kustas 1973:69; 71.
[ back ] 302. Trans. Luibheid and Rorem 1987:282–283. In apophatic theology silence is related to the idea of the ineffability of the experience of the union with the Divine; see Lossky 1976:23–43; also Mortley 1986:221–241. On the Latin Christian side, cf. the discussion of St Augustine’s theory of silence in Mazzeo 1962.
[ back ] 303. Enneades
[ back ] 304. Diehl 1903–1906:2.238.23.
[ back ] 305. See for instance Proklos’ discussion of religious symbolism in connection with allegorical interpretation of myths in his commentary on Republic (Kroll 1899:1.78.18–79.4; cf. Kroll 1899:1.83.12–22). For the concept of ritual poetics, see also above n289.
[ back ] 306. Cf. Kustas 1973:182–183.
[ back ] 307. PG 3.373AB.
[ back ] 308. PG 94.1247C.
[ back ] 309. PG 94.1241B. In one of his homilies, Leo the Wise, too, describes the spiritual effect of an image of Christ in terms of conveyance of a “mystical emphasis” of the Divine (Homily 34; cf. Kustas 1973:185). On the theological dimensions of icons see Cameron 1992, especially 24–34; cf. also Cameron 1991:47–73. Kitzinger 1950 and Ladner 1953 are still very helpful. On the theological concepts of “image and likeness” in the Eastern Church, cf. Lossky 1976:114–134.
[ back ] 310. Downey 1957:899.7.4–6.
[ back ] 311. Οἶδε γὰρ καὶ νοῦς προκόπτειν ἐκ τῶν κατ’ αἴσθησιν κἀκ τοῦ ἐλάττονος ποδηγούμενος καταλαμβάνειν τὰ τελεώτερα καὶ πρὸς τὰ ἄδυτα παρεισδύνειν, ἐφ’ ἅπερ τὸ ποδηγῆσαν αὐτὸν οὐδ’ ὁπωσοῦν παρακύψαι δεδύνηται (Downey 1957:867, XII.1).
[ back ] 312. Downey 1957:906.25.1.
[ back ] 313. Downey 1957:901.13.5–9.
[ back ] 314. On Ioannes Phokas’ travel, see Galatariotou 1993:224–225; Kuelzer 2002:156–158 (with earlier bibliography).
[ back ] 315. PG 133.928.B.
[ back ] 316. PG 133.957.D.
[ back ] 317. On the Neoplatonic associations of emphasis in Byzantine rhetoric, see my analysis above and Kustas’s excellent discussion in Kustas 1973:175–177.
[ back ] 318. For daphnē’s symbolic associations with sōphrosunē, see for instance the following examples in Makrembolites:3.2.5; 4.3.2; 5.3.5; 5.3.6; 5.6.2; 5.6.3; 8.7.5; 8.10.1; 8.13.1–2; 8.14.4; 8.18; 10.12.5. The same symbolism had been exploited rhetorically by Aphthonios in one of his progumnasmata (Rabe 1926:16.10–13) and by Nikolaos in his sugkrisis of daphnē with libanos (Walz 1.371–372).
[ back ] 319. The same thought is conveyed by Hysminias’ earlier parallelism of Hysmine with a book in which he has been initiated into the mysteries of Eros: ἐπὶ σοὶ βίβλῳ κατεμυήθην τὸν ῎Ερωτα (5.18.1). The metanarrative dimensions of this phrase are obvious: Hysminias’ book about his love story is nothing but a transcription of Hysmine’s “mystical book of love,” whose description in Greek as a βίβλος might have conveyed to the Christian audience an allusion to the Bible as well.
[ back ] 320. LSJ, s.v.
[ back ] 321. Περὶ ποιητικῆς καὶ τῶν ὑπ’ αὐτὴν εἰδῶν καὶ τῆς ἀρίστης ἁρμονίας καὶ ῥυθμοῦ τὰ Πλάτωνι δοκοῦντα; Kroll 1899:1.42–69.19.
[ back ] 322. Original text in Kroll 1899:1965:1.69.2–4.
[ back ] 323. … ποιητής ἐστι κοσμικός, μιμήματα ποιῶν τὰ ἐμφανῆ τῶν ἀφανῶν καὶ καλῶν καλά, τῶν κατὰ νοῦν κατὰ φύσιν, ἁρμονίαις χρώμενος, δι’ ὧν ἀρετὴν ἐν τῷ ὅλῳ παρέχεται κρατοῦσαν, ἡττωμένην δὲ κακίαν (Kroll 1899:1.68.15–19; cf. also Kustas 1973:178).
[ back ] 324. Kroll 1899:1.69.4.
[ back ] 325. Kroll 1899:1.68.14–15.
[ back ] 326. ῏Ην τὸ καθ’ ῾Υσμίνην καὶ ῾Υσμινίαν ἡμᾶς ἀνὰ πᾶσαν γλῶσσαν διήγημα κείμενον, καὶ ἦν ᾿Απόλλων ἐφ’ ἡμῖν εὐλογούμενος (11.1.2).
[ back ] 327. Σὺ δέ μοι τὴν μηνοειδῆ ὁλοκύκλωσον, ἵν’ ὁλόφωτον εἴη μοι τὸ διήγημα (11.11.1–2).
[ back ] 328. In addition to the spiritual overtones of this passage I also discern some more profane echoes from Thoukydides as well as from another example closer to the conventions of the genre that Makrembolites practices, that is, from Longos’ Daphnis and Chloe. In his preamble, Longos notes that his four books have been written as a votive offering to Eros, the Nymphs, and Pan. This dedicatory note is followed by a sort of advertisement of his story. His narrative, Longos says, will offer a remedy to those in pain, consolation to the distressed ones, memories to those who have experienced love, and preparatory instruction to the inexperienced (cf. Morgan’s comments on Longos’ prologue; Morgan 1994a:75–77).
[ back ] 329. For a discussion of the end of the novel, see also above pp. 59–61.
[ back ] 330. Zeus, in particular, manipulates him as a messenger to all the other gods: δι’ ὃν καὶ δημηγοροῦσιν ἄλλοι θεοὶ κατ’ ἄλλους, καὶ πρὸς πάντας ὁ Ζεὺς τὸν ἐν ἑαυτῷ προχειρίσας ῾Ερμῆν (Kroll 1899:1.69.5–6).
[ back ] 331. On this, see above pp. 162n195.
[ back ] 332. Rabe 1913:242–246.
[ back ] 333. Diehl 1903–1906:1.60.4–11.
[ back ] 334. Kroll 1899:2.61.12–64.4.
[ back ] 335. The style of these two rhetoricians in general and in their discussions of the interconnection of rhetorical and ethical virtues in particular is characterized by a considerable degree of Dignity, in the sense that this Idea had been developed by Hermogenes.
[ back ] 336. Walz 3.665.24.
[ back ] 337. The (Neo)Platonic substratum of this approach to rhetoric comes to the fore if compared, for instance, with Proklos’ discussion of the three parts of the soul and the four cardinal virtues (Kroll 1899:1.206–235); see also above on pp. 144–145.
[ back ] 338. On these intellectual circles, see Angelou 1984:LV-I; especially on Eustratios of Nikaia and Michael of Ephesos, see also Browning 1962:6–9 and Podskalsky 1976:519.
[ back ] 339. Angelou 1984:LXIII.
[ back ] 340. For a discussion of the date of Makrembolites’ work and its order in the chronological sequence of the Komnenian novels, see also Chapter One; for Makrembolites’ possible allusions to Manuel I, see the convincing arguments in Magdalino 1992.
[ back ] 341. Plepelits’s rather monolithic reading of Hysmine and Hysminias represents this last tendency. On his approach, see also the following note. For the Christian ideological substratum of the Komnenian novels, see Harder 2000.
[ back ] 342. Theodoros Prodromos’ novel does not present any consistent use of such allusions, although it is not totally devoid of them. A number of Eumathios Makrembolites’ borrowings from Christian literature have been identified, although often with an inflated zeal, by Plepelits. As for Konstantinos Manasses’ novel, its fragmentary condition does not allow a systematic study of its possible biblical allusions. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the preserved fragments of this novel contain many didactic elements that are very close to the teachings of the official Church. The exceptionally great number of the moralistic precepts that have been preserved from this novel suggests that the whole work was strongly influenced by Christian morality (cf. Mazal 1967:13–14).
[ back ] 343. Langerbeck 1960:34.9–11.
[ back ] 344. Langerbeck 1960:38.8–40.1.
[ back ] 345. ᾿Απόδεσμος στακτῆς ἀδελφιδός μου ἐμοί, ἀνὰ μέσον τῶν μαστῶν μου αὐλισθήσεται.
[ back ] 346. Langerbeck 1960:93.16–94.12.
[ back ] 347. Westerink 1992:14.20. The terms that Psellos employs here are invested with marked rhetorical connotations. Σχῆμα refers to figurative language, while σεμνός recalls the rhetorical Idea of Dignity. Cf. also Westerink 1992:48.803–804: ταῦτα μὲν οὖν ἐρωτικὴν ἔξωθεν ἔχει θέαν/ἀλλ’ ἔνδον μεγαλοπρεπῶς τὰς ἀναβάσεις φέρει. Here the usual antithesis between apparent and deep levels of signification is adopted while μεγαλοπρεπῶς preserves its rhetorical overtones. Psellos also wrote another brief commentary on the Song of Songs 8.1–2, in which the daring imagery of the specific passage is interpreted as a symbolic invitation to an initiation into the mysteries of elevated contemplation (Westerink and Duffy 2002:118–119).
[ back ] 348. Westerink 1992:14–15, 16–24.
[ back ] 349. Westerink 1992:18.111. This observation recalls Psellos’ preoccupation with the rhetorical principle of the prepon in his discussion of Charikleia’s ēthopoiiai in Heliodoros’ Aithiopika; on this, see above p. 45.
[ back ] 350. Westerink 1992:22.204–215. At another point, Psellos renders the image of the Bride as smitten by love (ὅτι τετρωμένη ἀγάπης ἐγώ) with a metaphor taken from the traditional vocabulary of pagan romantic literature (ὅτι τὸ βέλος ἔτρωσε ἐμὲ τὸ τῆς ἀγάπης; Westerink 1992:32.430). Gregorios of Nyssa had employed the same motif in his own allegorical explication of this particular passage. He clearly associates this phrase with the basic romantic metaphor around which the whole Song has been constructed, that is, the figurative pattern of the epithalamion (διὰ τῆς ἐπιθαλαμίου τροπῆς; Langerbeck 1960:128.15–16).
[ back ] 351. Langerbeck 1960:22.18.
[ back ] 352. Langerbeck 1960:93.11.
[ back ] 353. Westerink 1992:20.156.
[ back ] 354. Baehrens 1925:61 (trans. Lawson 1957).
[ back ] 355. Theodoros’ approach to the Song of Songs was later condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 550; see Ohly 1958:55–56. Theodoretos, the fifth-century bishop of Cyrus in Syria, indicates that a similar secular interpretation of Solomon’s text was not unknown in his time either (Pope 1977:120–121).
[ back ] 356. On the use of imagery drawn on the Song of Songs in secular medieval Greek literature, see p. 101n244.
[ back ] 357. Dronke 1979. Especially illuminating are his comments on the appropriation of formal and thematic elements of the Song of Songs by lyric poets in the medieval West: “one kind of poetic liberation followed from the dream-logic that the Song of Songs bestowed; the other principal kind of poetic liberation, linked with this first, followed from the multivalence of the love-language itself, the imagery that hovers between sensuality and mysticism, or indeed bridges them. It is there that the first brilliant lyric uses of the Song of Songs, in the tenth and eleventh centuries, are particularly revealing. The range of imaginative possibilities that we perceive there, and the secular and spiritual modulations, can help to illuminate many of the heights of European love-lyric from the romanesque period and the baroque” (Dronke 1979:259–260). Cf. also Dronke 1976, where a discussion of the possible impact of Solomon’s Song on medieval ballads.
[ back ] 358. Commenting on the production of commentaries on the Song of Songs in medieval Western Europe, Ohly observes that at least half as many commentaries were written in the twelfth century as had been written in the preceding millennium (Ohly 1958:306); for a detailed discussion of these twelfth-century commentaries, see Ohly 1958:102–302. On the efflorescence of the interpretation and literary appropriation of the Song of Songs in Western Europe in the same century, see Pope 1977:122–124; cf. Astell 1990:8–9.
[ back ] 359. Astell 1990:9.
[ back ] 360. Such an approach to the Song was also facilitated by the emphasis of broader contemporary philosophical discourses on “the lower parts” of the soul, that is, on its emotional functions; see Astell 1990:10. Frye has insightfully pointed to the dynamic metaphoric associations of the gender imagery employed in the Song (Frye 1981:154).
[ back ] 361. For this text, see Matter 1990:190.
[ back ] 362. On this, see my discussion in Chapter One.
[ back ] 363. See, e.g., Helfer 1972:16–38, Conca 1986, Giusti (1989; 1993). The first systematic analysis of Eugeneianos’ style must be credited to Svoboda (Svoboda 1935). For a discussion of the broader scholarly reception of Drosilla and Charikles and the other Komnenian novels, see also Chapter One. Deligiorgis’ article, which in general should be read with much caution, points to Eugeneianos’ originality, without, however, paying any attention to the allegorical dimensions of his novel or viewing it within its proper cultural and historical context (Deligiorgis 1975).
[ back ] 364. Even Helfer’s sympathetic approach is not free from negative assessments (Helfer 1972:34–35).
[ back ] 365. Hunger 1969/70:29.
[ back ] 366. Matter aptly describes the influence of the allegorical exegesis of the Song on Western medieval literature in terms of tropical appropriation of the genre characteristics of commentary (Matter 1990:178–200).
[ back ] 367. Song of Songs 5.1.
[ back ] 368. Heliodoros 1.22.
[ back ] 369. Θυρίδων … ἐκκρεμωμένος. Here I am following Conca’s emendation of the reading “ἐκκρεμωμένην” preserved in the manuscripts and adopted by Boissonade, the first editor of the text. Conca’s suggestion is more appropriate for the specific context of Charikles’ fictional narrative.
[ back ] 370. ᾿Ιδοὺ οὗτος ὀπίσω τοῦ τοίχου ἡμῶν, παρακύπτων διὰ τῶν θυρίδων, ἐκκύπτων διὰ τῶν δικτύων (Song 2.9).
[ back ] 371. A similar image appears in the Song, where, however, the hands of the bride are dripping myrrh instead of dew (Song of Songs 5.5).
[ back ] 372. An interesting example of an extensive allegorical interpretation of several plants of an imagined garden is offered by the anonymous treatise edited by Thomson 1989. In this opusculum each plant is associated with a particular virtue; cf. also below the discussion of Methodios’ allegorical references to trees and fruits.
[ back ] 373. Langerbeck 1960:283.21–284.9.
[ back ] 374. Langerbeck 1960:35.16–36.11.
[ back ] 375. As has been already noted, in Makrembolites’ novel the hero’s passion for his beloved is consummated in his dreams. Cf. the inchoate erotic experiences of Daphnis and Chloe in Longos’ novel (2.10.1; 2.11.2).
[ back ] 376. Cf. Song of Songs 4.4.
[ back ] 377. E.g. Song of Songs 7.7; 7.8.
[ back ] 378. The metaphoric association of the heroines with the image of the garden in the Komnenian novels and the vernacular romances has been also noticed by Littlewood. Littlewood does not explore, though, the possible allegorical dimensions discussed here (Littlewood 1979).
[ back ] 379. Song of Songs 4.12. In his interpretation of this image in the Song of Songs, Gregorios of Nyssa construes the closed garden as an allegory of the soul that protects its integrity by observing the divine commandments: οὐκοῦν ὁ τῶν τοιούτων δένδρων κῆπος γεγονὼς εὐθαλὴς καὶ κατάφυτος καὶ τῷ τῶν ἐντολῶν ἑρκίῳ πανταχόθεν ἠσφαλισμένος, ὡς μηδεμίαν καθ’ ἑαυτοῦ παρασχεῖν τῷ κλέπτῃ καὶ τοῖς θηρίοις τὴν πάροδον (ὁ γὰρ ἐν κύκλῳ τῷ φραγμῷ τῶν ἐντολῶν διειλημμένος, ἀνεπίβατός ἐστι τῷ μονιῷ τῷ ἀγρίῳ καὶ ὁ ἐκ τοῦ δρυμοῦ αὐτὸν ὗς οὐ λυμαίνεται), εἴ τις τοίνυν καὶ κῆπός ἐστι καὶ ἠσφαλισμένος, οὗτος ἀδελφὴ καὶ νύμφη γίνεται τοῦ πρὸς τοιαύτην εἰπόντος ψυχὴν ὅτι “κῆπος… ” (Langerbeck 1960:274.18–275.6). Western commentators often prefer to find mariological allusions in this image; on such interpretations, see Daley 1986, where also a few references to medieval Greek religious literature.
[ back ] 380. Genesis 2.24.
[ back ] 381. See Lampe s.v. The following passages suffice to illustrate the theological connotations of this word: αἰ μὲν ἐνέργειαι [sc. Χριστοῦ] ποικίλαι, ἡ δὲ οὐσία ἁπλῆ (Basilios the Great, Epistolai 234.1); ᾿Ιησοῦν Χριστὸν ἕνα λέγομεν ἵνα μὴ τὸ πολυώνυμον τῆς ἐνεργείας εἰς πολλοὺς ἐκχέῃ υἱοὺς δυσσεβῶς … (Kyrillos of Jerusalem, Katechesis 10.3); ἐθαυματούργησεν [sc. Χριστός], ἔδειξε τὴν διπλῆν ἐνέργειαν, πάσχων μὲν ὡς ἄνθρωπος, ἐνεργῶν δὲ ὡς θεὸς ὁ αὐτός … (Kyrillos of Alexandria, fr. 15).
[ back ] 382. Deuteronomy 32.2.2–3. Kazhdan, who does not take into account the biblical references of the motif, interprets the detail of Drosilla’s sweat as an echo of a traditional rhetorical encomiastic topos (Kazhdan 1967:110). The possibility of both mystical and more profane connotations of this motif constitutes another example of the often double-tongued diction employed by the Byzantine novelists.
[ back ] 383. The same image is employed also by Makrembolites (5.6.2). For the reception of Sappho in medieval Greek literature, see above p. 101n244.
[ back ] 384. Milazzo’s article identifies a number of Hellenistic literary echoes in Eugeneianos (Milazzo 1985); cf. also the discussion of Kallidemos’ ēthopoiia in Chapter Two.
[ back ] 385. Genesis 2.10.
[ back ] 386. Heliodoros 2.28.5.
[ back ] 387. Genesis 2.9.
[ back ] 388. Cf. Exodos 3.8: εἰς γῆν ῥέουσαν γάλα καὶ μέλι.
[ back ] 389. Cf. Genesis 27.28: καὶ δῴη σοι ὁ Θεὸς ἀπὸ τῆς δρόσου τοῦ οὐρανοῦ.
[ back ] 390. Drosilla’s promise can be also seen as a reminiscence of the Song of Songs 6.10–11: εἰς κῆπον καρύας κατέβην ἰδεῖν εἰ ἤνθησεν ἡ ἄμπελος, ἐξήνθησαν αἱ ῥοαί. ᾿Εκεῖ δώσω τοὺς μαστούς μου σοι; 7.12–13: ἴδωμεν εἰ ἤνθησεν ἡ ἄμπελος, ἤνθησεν ὁ κυπρισμός, ἤνθησαν αἱ ῥοαί· ἐκεῖ δώσω τοὺς μαστούς μου σοί. On the function of pronoia in Eugeneianos’ novel, see the discussion in the next Chapter.
[ back ] 391. The same image occurs almost verbatim in an epithalamion by Eugeneianos; see above p. 102.
[ back ] 392. Longos 1.18.1; Makrembolites 4.21.4.
[ back ] 393. This detail is absent from the epithalamion mentioned above. This reinforces my view that Eugeneianos here deliberately repeats the association of his heroine with drosos and its possible elevated dimensions. I find it worth noting that a similar image is employed by Theodoros Prodromos in an epigram on St Peter to describe Christ’s incarnation: Τῷ δεσπότῃ μὲν ἦσαν οἱ πόδες κάτω,/σταυρουμένῳ σταύρωσιν ὀρθίαν πάλαι·/ἐξ οὐρανοῦ γὰρ ἦλθεν εἰς ἡμᾶς κάτω,/ὡς ὄμβρος εἰς γῆν, ὡς ἐπὶ χλόην δρόσος (Du Theil 1810:210).
[ back ] 394. It is worth noting that additional possible allusions to this Platonic work may be detected in Eugeneianos’ novel (more specifically to 89c in 6.599 and to 99c in 6.352).
[ back ] 395. Phaedo 81a.
[ back ] 396. Trans. Grube 1977:32.
[ back ] 397. On the concept of providence in this novel, see the last section of Chapter Four.
[ back ] 398. Welz 1910:62. The same epigram has been also attributed to Philostratos (see Follet 1964); however, Canart has convincingly established Theodoros Prodromos’ authorship (Canart 1969).
[ back ] 399. E. and M. Jeffreys forth.:9–10. I use E. and M. Jeffreys’s translation.
[ back ] 400. E. and M. Jeffreys forth.:5–32.
[ back ] 401. Romano 1980:110.103.
[ back ] 402. Romano 1980:111.105.
[ back ] 403. ᾿Εκ τῶν λόγων γεννᾶς με καὶ λόγοις τρέφεις/καὶ σπαργανοῖς με καὶ λούεις λόγοις./᾿Αλλ’ ὦ λόγου δοχεῖον ἐμψυχωμένον … (Romano 1980:111.108–110).
[ back ] 404. Romano 1980:110.99.
[ back ] 405. Romano 1980:111.110–117.
[ back ] 406. Musurillo 1963:7.150–151.
[ back ] 407. Musurillo 1963:7.152; cf. Song of Songs 4.9–12.
[ back ] 408. Musurillo 1963:8.198; cf. Song of Songs 4.16. Noteworthy is also Methodios’ allegorical interpretation of the fable of the trees from the Book of Judges (9.8–15). According to Methodios, the fig tree symbolizes the man’s happiness in Paradise before the Fall; the vine stands for the joy of those who survived the Deluge; the olive tree represents God’s benevolence; and the buckthorn symbolizes chastity (Musurillo 1963:10.260–266). For other allegorical associations of fruits and trees with virtues in Methodios’ Symposium, see Musurillo 1963:8.177; 9.247–253.
[ back ] 409. It is worth noting that in Vaticanus Urbinas Graecus 134, which along with Eugeneianos’ novel (43r–77v) contains also Prodromos’ Rhodanthe and Dosikles (78v–119r), the two novels are followed by a series of epigrams (119v–122v), two of which deal with the theme of garden and employ a symbolic diction very similar to the style of the poem by Prodromos discussed above.
[ back ] 410. Westerink 1992:13–67.
[ back ] 411. Simotas 1984:252–257. Simotas notes that Seides’ interpretation is largely based on Pseudo-Athanasios (Simotas 1984:36). Niketas Seides’ intertextual history is much more complicated since he also seems to draw heavily on Pseudo-Eusebios’ allegorical interpretation of the Song. Pseudo-Eusebios’ text is edited in Pitra 1883:529–537 (see especially 530–531).
[ back ] 412. E. Jeffreys 1991. Significantly, two of the four Byzantine novelists, Theodoros Prodromos and Konstantinos Manasses, were among Eirene’s most distinguished protégés.
[ back ] 413. Gautier 1972:8–80.
[ back ] 414. This text has been edited by Lambros (Lambros 1908:15–18). On the figure of Eros in Hysmine and Hysminias, see above in this Chapter.
[ back ] 415. It should be recalled that the ambiguity of the Song of Songs did not pass unnoticed by its commentators. As we have seen, Gregorios of Nyssa, for instance, suggests that one should not read the Song with “carnal thoughts” but pay attention to its profound meaning. It should be also recalled that it was on account of this ambivalence that Ioannes Eugenikos used the Song as an interpretive model for his own allegorical Protheōria into Heliodoros’ novel; see the discussion of this treatise above in this Chapter.
[ back ] 416. For more examples of an innovative use of the imagery of the Song of Songs in twelfth-century Byzantine literature, see also Chapter Two, n224.