Chapter 4. Comic Modulations

... But com thou Goddes fair and free,
In Heav’n yclept Euphrosyne,
And by men, heart-easing Mirth,
Whom lovely Venus at a birth
With two sisters Graces more
To Ivy-crowned Bacchus bore;
Or whether (as som Sager sing)
The frolick Wind that breathes the Spring,
Zephir with Aurora playing,
As he met her once a-Maying,
There on Beds of Violets blew,
And fresh-blown Roses washt in dew,
Fill’d her with thee a daughter fair,
So bucksom, blith, and debonair.
Haste thee nymph, and bring with thee
Jest and youthful Jollity,
Quips and Cranks, and wanton Wiles,
Nods, and Becks, and Wreathed Smiles...
J. Milton, L’ Allegro

The Comic and the Novel: Genre Flexibility and Discursive Inclusiveness

In addition to the illustrations of the personified Months and Virtues discussed in the previous Chapter, Marcianus Gr. Z 540 presents an additional noteworthy feature. The columns of the first eight canon tables depicted in this manuscript are based on a series of playful ornaments—animals and little figures of musicians, dancers, and acrobats—that recall secular festivities and especially games staged in the Hippodrome of Constantinople. [1] Although the function of these figures is merely decorative, their coexistence with the personified representations of the Months and Virtues suggests at least an aesthetic liberty that did not exclude the simultaneous use of elevated and profane ornamental elements in the same artistic context. We could further assume that the liberty of the painter of Marcianus Gr. Z 540 is particularly daring, all the more since it appears in the austere religious context of a Gospel manuscript. We should not forget, after all, that the official attitude of the Church toward profane spectacles, games, and dances was always at least suspicious, if not openly hostile. No doubt, twelfth-century men of the Church espoused this attitude too. [2] The profane ornamentation of the Venetian manuscript attests, I contend, to an aesthetic and ideological amphoteroglōssia that was protected by artistic conventions enabling the coexistence of heterogenous, or even seemingly contradictory, elements in the same artistic context.
Of the four Komnenian novels, Eugeneianos’ Drosilla and Charikles exemplifies this artistic liberty most explicitly. On the one hand, it achieves the demanding standards of “high,” elevated literature; on the other, it does not avoid realistic, even euteleis (ordinary) scenes—in the rhetorical meaning of the term euteles explored later in this Chapter. The sublime diction of Charikles’ description of his imaginary meeting with his beloved (4.222–264), which, as illustrated in the previous Chapter, was modeled on the sanctioned exemplum of the Song of Songs, stands in sharp contrast to the scatological dimensions of the scene of Baryllis’ dance later in the novel (7.265–308).
The coexistence of elevated and “low” elements in the same narrative context is not unparalleled in works of medieval European literature. [3] Among the medieval Greek literati, notable also is the case of Konstantinos Mannases who, in his Hodoiporikon, supports the incorporation of humorous scenes in a broader, more solemn narrative context and the ensuing rhetorical effectiveness of such interdiscursivity as follows:
οὐδὲν δὲ καινὸν οὐδὲ πόρρω τῆς τέχνης
παρεισενεγκεῖν καὶ γελοῖον τοῖς λόγοις·
τοῖς γὰρ λυπηροῖς καὶ γέμουσι τοῦ πάθους
καὶ χαρίεντα συγκεραννύειν δέον
καὶ ταῖς σκυθρωπαῖς ἱστοριογραφίαις
γελωτοεργοὺς παιδιὰς προσαγαγεῖν. [4]
It is neither radical nor artless
to introduce some comic elements in my narrative;
for one must mix sad and pathetic stories
with pleasant incidents,
and add some laughable diversions to gloomy chronicles.
The mixture of allegorical allusions with comic features is exceptionally foregrounded in Eugeneianos’ novel. In the other two fully preserved Komnenian novels, Rhodanthe and Dosikles and Hysmine and Hysminias, this conflation is less developed: in the former, the allegorical dimension is totally absent whereas in the latter, the opposite holds true. As a rule, the comic elements in the Komnenian novels are located within broader performative contexts, which may reflect similar occasions in actual twelfth-century Byzantine society.
It is my contention that comic modulations constitute one of the most distinctive features of the Komnenian novels that strongly differentiates them from their ancient Greek models. Comic episodes are either conspicuously absent from the fully preserved romantic ancient Greek novels or still inchoate and constrained by the boundaries of subtle allusiveness. They never assume the explicit character that they present in the Byzantine novels. In Longos, for instance, the humorous elements, which are closely related to the apheleia of the two young protagonists, are never developed into full comic scenes. To a great extent, the same holds true for Chariton, Heliodoros, and even Tatios, despite the fact that some parodic elements may be detected in the latter’s novel. [5]
In this Chapter, I explore the complex allusiveness, on the one hand, and the narratological dynamism, on the other, of the comic modulations in the Komnenian novels and especially in Rhodanthe and Dosikles and Drosilla and Charikles. First, I examine the revival of comic genres in twelfth-century Byzantium with a view to reconstructing the synchronic literary context of the comic modulations in these novels. Then I analyze the functions of comic modulations in Theodoros Prodromos and Niketas Eugeneianos, with an emphasis on the subversive dimensions of the motif of banquet since, almost always, in these novels banquet scenes constitute the narrative context in which comic elements are incorporated. [6]
Before embarking on the exploration of comic modulations in the Komnenian novels, a few words about my use of the term “comic” may be appropriate. Rather than other more or less semantically related terms, such as “humorous” or “satirical,” “comic” is especially pertinent to my discussion for two main reasons. First, this word alludes to the use in the Komnenian novels of a number of marked topoi that may be traced back to Attic comedy without, though, always implying direct borrowings from particular comedies. Second, in its current usage, “comic” carries more specific connotations than the term “humorous” but is semantically less marked than “satirical.” “Humorous” suggests a special emphasis on the audience’s subjective reaction while “satirical” implies a conscious criticism by an author of specific targets located outside his narrative, which is not always the case with the comic scenes in the Komnenian novels. In other words, “comic” as I employ it in this book retains its inclusiveness without necessarily suggesting either direct intertextual references to specific examples of Attic comedy or satirical allusions to particular twelfth-century individuals. [7]
The usage of the word kōmōidia and of relevant terms in the ancient and medieval Greek novels places an emphasis on the genre connections with ancient Greek comedy or the satirical potential of certain episodes and discourses. In Achilleus Tatios, the priest of Artemis is portrayed as an imitator of Aristophanes who speaks humorously adopting the style of comedy. [8] Indeed, the priest’s speech is later characterized as a “comedy” by Thersandros’ advocate (τῆς τοῦ ἱερέως κωμῳδίας; 8.10.2). In this case, kōmōidia retains its specific marked connotations and refers to the content, effect, and style of Aristophanic comedy. The discourse of the priest is described as a comedy because of its rather modest reenactment of Aristophanes’ satirical use of obscene diction. In Theodoros Prodromos, kōmōidia is employed once and in the plural. It occurs in an unmarked context but with the rather marked satirical connotation of bitter sarcasm or irony without, though, any allusions to ancient Greek comedy (3.230). In other works of medieval Greek literature, kōmōidia clearly defines humorous satirical discourse. [9]
The words employed in the novels to denote the comic effect of an incident or a humorous discourse are most frequently gelōs, gelō , geloios, [10] but also, most rarely, asteios. [11] In Prodromos, gelōs and the etymologically related terms are also employed in laments and pathētikai ēthopoiiai, often in connection with Tyche, to convey the sense of what may be called dramatic or situational irony. [12]
At first sight, the comic scenes and descriptions in the Komnenian novels seem to play no particular role except as entertaining interludes. A careful reading, however, shows that such episodes may undertake more dynamic functions, reinforcing aspects of the whole narrative. They may also assume subtle parodic and satirical dimensions that strengthen the intertextual and extratextual potentiality of each specific novel. And, finally, they allude to contemporary medieval Greek reality. Not unlike the allegorical and rhetorical modulations, but in a more direct way, the comic modulations enable the expansion of the chronotope of the Komnenian novels so that it may accommodate aspects of contemporary life.
It is mainly because of humor’s inherent cultural specificity that such modulations contribute to the synchronic extrareferentiality of these novels. [13] Humor, both on actual occasions and in its literary manipulations, may be perceived in terms of a dialogue with broader sociocultural discourses, or with what Rifattere calls “sociolects.” [14] The humorist’s response to sanctioned sociolects is often subversive and irreverent. He plays with, and often undermines, current codes of communication and social interaction while at the same time questioning, without ultimately abolishing, established ideological premises. In this manner, humor is closely associated, I believe, with liminal and anti-structural cultural phenomena such as the carnival. “Liminality” is meant here with its anthropological connotations as a break from ordinary social norms that fosters potentially subversive and anti-structural behaviors. [15] If, as I argue, humor may be viewed as a playful commentary usually enunciated on the margins—boundaries—as it were, of sanctioned sociolects, then it is clear why comic modulations introduce into a text a discursive and genre flexibility that transgresses fixed boundaries. [16] It is for the same reason that in authoritative Church discourses laughter and humor were traditionally associated with disruptive patterns of comportment. Basilios, for instance, contended that laughter is unbecoming to Christians since Christ never laughed. [17] In a similar vein and in a clearly moralistic manner, Ioannes Chrysostomos, too, prescribed that a virgin should avoid not only laughing but even smiling. [18]
Through comic modulations, the chronotope of popular culture is assimilated in the Komnenian novels. In its turn, this chronotope contributes to the amphoteroglōssia of these texts since it embraces several contrasting categories: low and high, comic and serious, profane and elevated. These oppositions supplement other antithetical pairs such as Christian vs. pagan, literal vs. allegorical, and synchronic vs. diachronic that are activated in these novels.

Comic literature in twelfth-century Byzantium

Comic genres, not unlike allegorical exegesis, progumnasmata, court ceremonial poetry, and the genre of the novel itself, experienced a significant flourishing in twelfth-century Byzantium. [19] Lucian and Aristophanes were the most popular ancient Greek models of comic compositions in the Komnenian era. On the theoretical side, Tzetzes’ commentaries on Aristophanes point to the popularity of the classical comic poet in this period. Tzetzes offers a historical and theoretical account of ancient Greek comedy that draws extensively on ancient Greek discussions of the issue. He discerns three periods and kinds of this genre. At the beginning, he says, explicit taunt was the main characteristic of comedy. In contrast, Middle Comedy employed not direct but symbolic mockery against foreigners and citizens. New Comedy used symbolic jests too but only against foreigners and slaves. By that time, Tzetzes adds, citizens had already become much more overly unjust and would not tolerate the criticism of the comedians. [20] In his philological treatise Verses on the Differences among Poets, Tzetzes also includes a short theoretical discussion of the genre of comedy, connecting its origins with the festivities in honor of Dionysos. [21] Here, too, he discusses briefly the three periods of the genre—the Old, the Middle, and the New Comedy [22] —and then proceeds to analyze its different parts. [23] Laughter and taunt are the most important constituents of comedy, he observes. [24] In a rather moralistic spirit, he stresses that comic mockery castigates improper behavior and, in this way, foregrounds the importance of decorum. [25] Apart from comedy, Tzetzes deals with satyr drama as well, which he sees as a genre situated between tragedy and comedy. [26] The main characteristic of satyric poetry is the combination of laughter with threnodic elements (τῶν σατύρων γέλων δὲ καὶ θρηνῳδίαν [ἔφημεν εἶναι]). [27]
Tzetzes’ short treatise provides illuminating evidence for twelfth-century Greek letters: as its prologue indicates, it was most probably intended as an instructive text. [28] My argument for an educational function of Tzetzes’ treatise is further corroborated by some information provided by Michael Italikos. In one of his letters, Italikos takes pride in the fact that, among other things, he used to teach his students “the arts of comedy and satyric poetry.” [29] Theodoros Prodromos’ Schedē Muos (Mouse’s Educational Compositions) is also an interesting example of satirical and parodic literary composition intended for teaching at school. [30]
If the cases of Tzetzes, Prodromos, and Italikos point to a more or less institutionalized endorsement of comic genres in twelfth-century Byzantium, a different attitude is evinced by Nikephoros Basilakes’ Prologue. Although he takes pride in his composition of texts of this kind, Basilakes hastens to add that these were playful experiments written in his youth that he destroyed as soon as he realized that Christian religion renounces the pleasure of laughter. [31]
Basilakes’ dogmatism seems to have been shared to some extent by Eustathios of Thessalonike. Significantly, Eustathios discusses comedy along with the other two dramatic genres (tragedy and satyr drama) in his intriguing treatise “on simulation.” Playing upon the double significance of the Greek term for “simulation” (hupokrisis, meaning both playing on the stage and hypocrisy), Eustathios approaches drama from a broader moralistic point of view. In this manner, his discussion, which begins as a brief historical overview of the alleged beginnings of drama, ends up in a fiery polemic against instances of hypocrisy in social and political life. He traces four phases of degradation in the history of hupokrisis, from its venerated dramatic origins with tragedy to its absolute degeneration with patterns of hypocritical behavior in everyday life, through the intermediate stages of satyr drama and comedy:
In the old days, hupokrisis and the artist who practiced it represented something good. Since, though, it was impossible that even that good thing would be left uncorrupted ... wily life contrived such things, plotting an invidious craft against beneficial hupokrisis. First it invented satyr dramas—mixtures of deeds and words of heroic figures that combined seriousness with laughter; ... and after this satyric combination of the serious with the hilarious, the comic hupokrisis flourished. This hupokrisis did not deal with heroic characters anymore, except incidentally. In general, this kind of hupokrisis, which was involved with vulgar matters and thus represented a violated form of its genre, would have passed unnoticed if the comic poems had not enticed the ears of the spectators and, thanks to their eloquence, had not survived as reading material for those who lead prudent lives. [32]
Despite this negative attitude toward different modes of simulation, an attitude that adheres to the established Christian view of comedy and laughter, Eustathios does not always disapprove of humor. As we have seen, he was ready to discern and appreciate sophisticated asteiotēs (refined wit) in everyday interactions [33] while at other times he manifested a generous indulgence in detailed descriptions of food and banquets that verged on the grotesque.
It is well known that only rarely did medieval Greek criticism deal with specific examples of secular medieval Greek literature. It is a fortunate coincidence, therefore, that an interesting critique of an example of Byzantine satire has come down to us from the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century. In a letter to an anonymous addressee, Konstantinos Akropolites analyzes the literary and moral qualities of Timarion, a satirical dialogue composed most probably in the first half of the twelfth century by an anonymous writer differently identified with Theodoros Prodromos, [34] Nikolaos Kallikles, [35] or Michael Italikos. [36] Akropolites describes the author of this work in most derogatory terms, referring to him as a “lunatic” and a “fool.” [37] It seems that what instigated this vehement polemic was not so much the literary qualities of the text as, rather, its alleged immorality. Akropolites finds Timarion’s mixture of pagan mythology with Christian religion utterly blasphemous. Instead of addressing religious matters with the appropriate gravity, Akropolites contends, this text indulges in irreverent satirical absurdities. [38]
Notwithstanding this disapproving attitude toward comic literature, undoubtedly shared by the official Church, [39] twelfth-century Greek writers did not abstain from it. Timarion is the most intriguing example of the revival of the interest in Lucian in twelfth-century Byzantium. [40] It should be stressed, however, that this pronounced interest in Lucianic comic modes might have already emerged in the eleventh century with the composition of a similar satirical text, the anonymous Philopatris. [41] A most prolific twelfth-century imitator of Lucian was Theodoros Prodromos, who composed the satires Ignorant or a Grammarian in His Own Conceit, Admirer of Plato or a Tanner, Executioner or Doctor, Sale of Poetic and Political Lives, Amarantos or the Love Affairs of an Old Man (᾿Αμαθὴς ἢ παρὰ ἑαυτῷ γραμματικός, Φιλοπλάτων ἢ σκυτοδέψης, Δήμιος ἢ ἰατρός, Βίων πρᾶσις ποιητικῶν καὶ πολιτικῶν, ᾿Αμάραντος ἢ γέροντος ἔρωτες). [42] The same author wrote also the comic drama Battle of Cats and Mice (Κατομυομαχία) that can be read as a parody of the genre of ancient Greek tragedy and as a satire of contemporary political events. [43]
A recently discovered twelfth-century satirical text, Ananias or Anacharsis (᾿Ανανίας ἢ ᾿Ανάχαρσις), has been attributed to another Komnenian novelist, Niketas Eugeneianos. If this attribution is correct—and there is no compelling reason to believe otherwise—then Eugeneianos was the author of an extensive satire against an anonymous aristocrat, who has convincingly but not conclusively been identified as Ioannes Kamateros. [44] The so-called Ptochoprodromic poems, written most probably by Theodoros Prodromos, [45] constitute another twelfth-century Greek literary parallel to the comic scenes in the Komnenian novels. Food, drink, and possibly sex play a dominant role in these poems, which also contain allusions to religious and political reality. [46] The performative character of the Ptochoprodromic poems [47] and the ability of their author to assume different personae according to his specific narrative needs bring these texts close to the comic scenes in Prodromos’ and Eugeneianos’ novels.
The revival of romantic fiction and the flourishing of satire in twelfth-century Byzantium can be viewed as complementary literary and cultural phenomena although no direct organic interconnections between them may or need to be established. A brief comparison with the rise of the postmedieval European novel may be pertinent here. Parody and satire have often been viewed as the main driving forces in the development of that new genre. Cervantes’ Don Quixote marks the most critical turn in the transition from idealistic romance to the novel in postmedieval Europe. Don Quixote’s parodic stance toward the unrealistic world of romances articulated an antagonistic poetics that, along with even earlier or contemporary examples of satire, contributed later to the evolution of the “anti-poetics” of the novel in eighteenth-century Europe. In the works of Fielding and Smollett, for instance, both earlier anti-romances like Don Quixote and contemporary eighteenth-century satires have been detected as major formative sources of inspiration. [48]
The simultaneous flourishing of the novel and satire in twelfth-century Byzantium points to possible interconnections of a comparable but different sort. What we have here, I contend, is not the organic development of a new (sub)genre (the novel) in terms of a parodic response to its literary predecessors but, rather, the synchronous development and manifestation of broader and deeper common structures of literary communication and of culturally determined modes of thought. Both in practice and in theory, and albeit not unlike their ancient models, twelfth-century Greek intellectuals put special emphasis on the significance of comic genres as corrective literary actions often directed to specific addressees. We have seen that Tzetzes attributed explicit didactic functions to comedy: it castigates, he says, immoral behavior, thus restoring righteousness. [49] In a similar spirit, Gregorios Pardos, commenting on Hermogenes’ prescriptions about comic writing, emphasizes that comedy includes both bitter and humorous elements. [50] Although heavily drawing on literary conventions, Prodromos’ Lucianic satires, like Eugeneianos’ Anacharsis, offer rather detailed portraits of their targets, who may have been relatively easily identifiable within the circles of their original audiences. Exaggerated slapstick does not prevent Ptochoprodromos from articulating vehement criticisms against certain drawbacks of the established social order either.
By placing emphasis on the individuality of both themselves and the objects of their criticism, the authors of such satirical pieces exhibit a literary and pragmatic awareness that may be compared to the specificity of the plot, of the delineation of the characters’ self-consciousness, and of the narrative self-referentiality in the works of their contemporary twelfth-century novelists. Hand in hand with this sense of individuality and specificity goes a certain realism that also characterizes the development of the love stories of the novels, despite their projection into a distant pagan past.
What is perhaps of greater importance is that the novel as well as the comic literary modes of parody and satire are characterized by a comparable degree of literary and ideological interdiscursivity. Genre flexibility and discursive inclusiveness are major features of satire. [51] A number of discourses from different, even antithetical, domains of cultural experience are often incorporated in satirical literature to articulate a highly individualized commentary on specific persons or aspects of social reality. Akropolites’ vehement attack against Timarion’s “irreverent” combination of Christian and pagan elements attests to the satirical effectiveness—and the uneasiness—generally resulting from such interdiscursivity. Timarion, observes Akropolites most contemptuously, “mixes the unmixable.” [52] Satire can also accommodate or parody a number of different genre forms. Theodoros Prodromos, to give just one example, draws on a number of literary discourses to compose his satires: progumnasmata, drama, religious hymnography, and court poetry.
This all-embracing expansion beyond rigid genre categories is a renowned trait of novelistic discourse too. Rhetoric, religious literature, ceremonial poetry, epigrams, idylls, and a number of other literary genres or modes are all assimilated in the overarching narrative frame of the Komnenian novels. Individuality, a certain realism, genre and discursive inclusiveness, and discursive experimentation are, I propose, the major new common cultural and literary modalities that define the broader discursive context within which the simultaneous flourishing of comic genres and the novel in twelfth-century Greek literature may be viewed.

Celebrating eros: banquets in the Greek novel

In the Komnenian novels, the comic scenes are almost always located in the context of singing and dancing performed on the merry occasion of a banquet. Despite its frequency and pivotal importance in the ancient and medieval Greek novels, the motif of banquet has never been given the attention it deserves. [53] Banquets are usually happy occasions, often culminating in singing and dancing that mark important turning points in the story. Sometimes it is in such a context that the love between the two main characters originates or is gradually cultivated. This seems to be a motif widely spread in romantic literature throughout the world.
The associations of dinner party with the initiation or culmination of a romantic story—reflections, we may assume, of real life experiences—can be traced back to early Oriental popular tradition. An Asian story recounted by Chares of Mytilene may be of particular comparative value here. As preserved by Athenaios, Chares’ tale can be summarized as follows: Once upon a time, a Scythian princess, Odatis, and an Armenian prince, Zariadres, saw each other in a dream and were struck by love. It so happened that the prince arrived at the Scythian court at the moment of a feast that had been prepared by the father of the princess and to which all the admirers of the young lady had been invited. The princess had to choose her spouse among them by offering her favorite suitor a cup of wine. At the beginning she was in great distress because she could not find the man of her dream. Suddenly she sees him standing next to her and hands him the cup of wine (Athenaios 13.575). “Now,” Athenaios adds, “this love affair is held in remembrance among the barbarians who live in Asia and it is exceedingly popular; in fact they picture this story in their temples and palaces and even in private dwellings; and most princes bestow the name Odatis on their own daughters.” [54] A similar story, of Greek provenance this time, has been recorded, Athenaios continues, by Aristotle in his Constitution of Massilia. According to this account, it was at a festive banquet that the daughter of the king of Phokaia Nannos chose her spouse by offering him a cup of wine. [55]
No assumptions about specific origins are suggested here. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that echoes of the Asian love story between Odatis and Zariadres have been identified in later Persian literature, which, in turn, may have had some general impact on certain medieval European romances. [56] Leaving aside the motif of the dream, which, however, in combination with a banquet appears in Eugeneianos’ novel too (albeit in a different form and context), from Chares’ tale and Aristotle’s account we should keep the narrative core of the connection of a festive dinner with the gradual development of a love affair.
Coming back to a firmer ground of comparison—the ancient Greek novel—in Achilleus Tatios, Kleitophon’s erotic excitement and bewilderment when he first saw Leukippe is transformed into a conscious deep feeling during the banquet that follows the heroine’s arrival at Kleitophon’s house. [57] Leukippe is sitting opposite Kleitophon, who has thus the opportunity to stare at her during the dinner. The transformation of his feelings is facilitated by the performance of a song that narrates the myth of Apollo’s love for Daphne. [58] The mythological theme of the song is received by the hero as an authoritative exemplum of proper behavior in matters of love and instigates a radical revision of his ethical scruples regarding his feelings for Leukippe. [59]
The second book of the novel begins with another banquet. The order of the narrative has been reversed: in this case, the dinner is preceded—not followed—by two songs performed to the accompaniment of a guitar by Leukippe herself, who chooses her themes from Homeric and lyric poetry. [60] Her second song is about the rose and its erotic connotations. Kleitophon is enchanted by the beauty of both the song and the singer. This banquet is especially crucial for the whole plot since it also marks the beginning of Leukippe’s love for Kleitophon. The reader is left with the impression that the wine consumed at the banquet did not play an insignificant role in this new development of the story. [61]
Later in the novel, another banquet offers the setting for the advancement of the courtship between the male protagonist and Melite. [62] Thinking that Leukippe is dead, Kleitophon is persuaded to attend a dinner that his new female admirer has prepared for him. In a remarkably Platonic mode that (parodically?) reenacts a philosophical debate on the nature of heterosexual love that took place earlier in the novel, [63] the narrator reproduces the charged atmosphere of the banquet and the gradual increase of Melite’s burning passion for the object of her desire. [64]
In his own use of the motif of the banquet, Eumathios Makrembolites follows in the steps of Tatios, although in this case, too, the medieval Greek author contributes his own innovations. [65] In Hysmine and Hysminias, the young lovers meet in the context of a banquet at the home of Sosthenes, Hysmine’s father, who offers hospitality to Hysminias, the official “herald of Zeus.” In his description of this scene, Makrembolites introduces daring new nuances unparalleled in the tradition of the genre and totally unacceptable for Byzantine moral standards: in this novel, it is the heroine who first falls in love with the hero and makes advances to him. [66]
The motif of banquet plays an exceptionally central role in Makrembolites’ novel. In no other ancient or medieval Greek novel are festive dinners so frequent. [67] Their recurrence in Hysmine and Hysminias again and again, in an almost unchangeable form, enhances the general ritualistic atmosphere of the novel. The ritual order of banquets remains immutable almost always. This holds true especially for the banquets in the first six books and the last part of the novel (books 9–11), in which the first meeting and the final reunion of the two lovers, respectively, take place.
This formalization—an elemental feature of ritual order in general— [68] finds its parallel in an intriguing account by Eustathios of Thessalonike of the public festive banquets that celebrated the nuptials of the Emperor Manuel I Komnenos’ son Alexios with Agnes, princess of France, and of Manuel’s daughter Maria with Renier de Monferrat (1180). Despite the fact that, as I shall discuss later, Eustathios—whose treatise on hupokrisis expresses a generally negative view on comedy—connects discourse on food with comic modes and styles, in this speech he dwells on a detailed account of the festive occasion. His description often assumes grotesque overtones. The streets, he stresses, were full of all kinds of food, elaborate courses, and meat dishes as many as the grains of sand. The wine flowed incessantly from the wineskins and filled the stomachs of the symposiasts, who, after swelling their “innate vase—their belly” with Dionysos’ drink, would take with them an extra load of wine in real vases. But, Eustathios rushes to add, despite the overwhelming conviviality, decorous order and formality were more or less observed and the people did not behave in a Bacchic frenzy “nor was the raving (μαινόλης) Dionysos present at the feast.” [69]
In Makrembolites, the natural order of things is very rarely undermined by the sumptuousness of the food that verges on a grotesque excess recalling the description of Eustathios of Thessalonike. This is the case of the second banquet in the novel. The narrator employs here adunata in order to convey the exceptional character of this banquet:
τρυφαὶ καὶ πάλιν περὶ τὴν τράπεζαν, οὐκ ἐξ ἀγρῶν, οὐκ ἐκ θαλάσσης ἁπλῶς, ὡς οἶδε τρυφᾶν ἠπειρώτης ἀνὴρ καὶ παράλιος, ἀλλ’ ὅσας χεὶρ καὶ τέχνη μαγείρων ἐσκεύασεν, ὡς ἰχθῦς ἐξ ἀγροῦ, καὶ ὡς ἐκ θαλάσσης ταών· οὕτω πολυτελὲς ἡμῖν τὸ δεῖπνον, οὕτω λαμπρόν, οὕτω χάριεν, ὡς ἡδύνειν καὶ ὀφθαλμοὺς καὶ λαιμόν.
Again, sumptuous food at the table, not of the sort that man collects from the fields or merely from the sea, not in the manner that people from the mainland or from the coast enjoy food, but dishes that had been prepared by the hands and the art of cooks—fish from the fields and peacock from the sea, so to speak. So opulent, so glamorous, so pleasant our dinner was as to please both the eyes and the palate.
As I shall discuss later, this inchoate reversal of nature due to the miraculous effects of culinary art finds a more elaborate parallel in Prodromos’ novel where it is further developed into the pivotal constituent of one of the most grotesque banquets in the whole tradition of the Greek novel. [70]
All in all, however, the dinners of the first and the last part of Hysmine and Hysminias follow a strict, formal pattern. The situation is different in the middle section of the novel that focuses on the separation of the two lovers. The liminality of this phase is reflected in the troubled character of the banquets that take place on the ship of the lustful pirates who have captured Hysminias. Disturbed culinary codes and behaviors function here as markers of the transitional phase of the narrative. [71] The narrator, that is, Hysminias himself, places emphasis on the improper character of these banquets, which become the sites of sexual orgies and excessive eating and drinking. The banquets here are not occasions for decorous merriment or for regenerative excesses similar to the Bakhtinian grotesque, [72] but incidents of repulsive behavior. That is why in Makrembolites this immoderation is not further developed into a comic incident:
οὕτω τοίνυν τὰ μὲν περὶ τὰς γυναῖκας αἰσχρῶς, τὰ δ’ ἄλλ’ ἀκόσμως οἱ βάρβαροι διακοσμησάμενοι περὶ τὸ δεῖπνον ἐτράπησαν· καὶ ἦν ἡ τράπεζα τούτοις πολυτελής, οὐχ ὡς πρὸ μικροῦ βαρβαρικὴ παντελῶς ἀφιλότιμος. Τοῖς μὲν οὖν ἀνδράσιν, ὡς εἴρηται, τῆς τριήρους ὁ πυθμὴν ἀφωσίωται, ταῖς δέ γε παρθένοις ὁ περὶ τὴν πρῷραν τόπος ἀφώρισται· αἱ γάρ τοι γυναῖκες τοῖς βαρβάροις αἰσχρῶς περὶ τὸ δεῖπνον συνανεκλίθησαν. Μετὰ γοῦν δὴ πολυτελεῖς, ὡς εἴρηται, τὰς τροφὰς καὶ τὴν αἰσχρὰν ἐκείνην καὶ ὅλην αἵματος τράπεζαν τοὺς μὲν νεανίσκους ... ταῖς κώπαις παρακαθίζουσιν· ὅσοι δ’ ὑπερβεβήκασι τούτους ... ξίφους γεγόνασι παρανάλωμα, ... αἱ δέ γε γυναῖκες αἰσχρῶς τοῖς βαρβάροις συνανεκλίθησαν· καὶ ἦν ἡ τριήρης πανδοχεῖον πλῆρες αἰσχρότητος καὶ συμπόσιον αἵματος.
Having made such vulgar arrangements for the women and after preparing all the other things in such a disorderly manner, the barbarians turned to the dinner. And this banquet was opulent, not totally cheap and barbarous as their banquets had been before. As it has been said, the men had been allotted the forepart of the ship and the virgins the prow. As for the women, they were shamelessly lying with the barbarians at the banquet. And after the dinner, which, as it has been said, was sumptuous, and the obscene and bloody banquet, the young men were placed ... at the oars, but those who were older became the victims of the sword ... while the women were lying flagrantly with the barbarians: the ship was a hostel full of obscenity, and a feast of blood.
Although Makrembolites’ description does not dwell on specific details of the sexual orgies performed by the barbarian pirates, this is the only case in the fully preserved ancient and medieval Greek romantic novels in which banquets are transformed into occasions for salacious excesses of this sort. It is the picaresque novel, specifically the fragmentary Phoinikika by Lolianos, that offers parallel examples of bloody and orgiastic feasts. Albeit a dependence of Makrembolites’ text on Phoinikika is far from probable since there is no evidence that Lolianos’ problematic text was available in twelfth-century Byzantium, [73] the case remains that the banquets in this liminal middle part of the Komnenian novel introduce some elements of disorder and disruptive impropriety usually encountered in the picaresque novel. [74] These elements contribute to the overall development of the story: Hysminias must become aware of the base aspects of love, as they are exhibited in the context of such banquets, before he reaches the level of elevated erōs and sōphrosunē through his ultimate conjugal union with Hysmine. Sōphrosunē, it should be recalled, is associated not only with sexual purity but also with the avoidance of excess in food and drink, an equilibrium that is graphically undermined in the banquet scenes of this transitional phase of Hysminias’ narrative. [75]
Commenting on the role of banquets in Rabelais and their association with the grotesque, Bakhtin notes that banquets always undertake the “function of completion” and in this sense are equivalent to nuptials. [76] The ancient and medieval Greek novels confirm the accuracy of Bakhtin’s observation. [77] However, an important difference may be noticed in this respect. In the Greek novel, the banquets that celebrate the reunion of the two lovers are less excessive than Rabelais’ feasts. Furthermore, in some Greek novels the “function of completion” of the banquet motif is performed not merely by means of the festive character of the occasion, which marks the reunion of the two lovers, but also through the function of the dinner party as a context for the exchange of narratives that recapitulate the adventures experienced throughout the story by the table companions, especially the protagonists. In Achilleus Tatios, the reunion of Leukippe and Kleitophon is celebrated with two banquets prepared by the priest of Artemis. At the first banquet, Kleitophon recalls his adventures, [78] while at the second one the priority is given to the story of Leukippe, who has triumphantly passed a test of chastity. [79] Similarly, in Eumathios Makrembolites, the longest part of the last book is occupied by the narratives of the two lovers, who recount their past adventures on the occasion of a festive banquet celebrating their reunion (11.2.16).

The poetics of euteleia: banquets and performances in the Komnenian novels

In his commentaries on Homer, Eustathios of Thessalonike associates the description of banquets with the rhetorical Idea of apheleia (naiveté). [80] More specifically, banquets as events of everyday life, Eustathios contends, could be connected with euteleia (the ordinary) as well, which is closely related to apheleia. Commenting on a banquet scene from the Iliad, Eustathios underlines “the heroic naiveté and euteleia inherent in the description of the roasted meat served to Achilleus and the others” (τὴν ἡρωϊκὴν ἀφέλειαν καὶ εὐτέλειαν τὴν ἐν ὀπτοῖς κρέασι τοῖς κατὰ τὸν ᾿Αχιλλέα καὶ τοῖς λοιποῖς). [81] In rhetorical tradition, euteleia is also associated with comedy. [82]
Humor was recognized as an important constituent of banquets also by another twelfth-century intellectual, Gregorios Pardos. Repeating the view of Hermogenes, whose rhetorical theory he discusses, Pardos observes that amusing topics combined with serious discourses are the main features of symposia. The importance of humor as an elemental aspect of banquets is illustrated, Pardos continues, by Xenophon’s Symposium. In this text, the clown Philippos and the female dancers and musicians represent the ludicrous side of the dinner, which is counterbalanced by the seriousness of the dialogue between Sokrates and his companions. [83] In his novel, Theodoros Prodromos has included a brief parodic allusion to such symposia. At the banquet that marks the reunion of Rhodanthe and Dosikles, Kraton makes a humorous reference to the “philosophical” ideas of his “wise” old nurse about the physiological impact of joy on men. Her popular wisdom, which Kraton finds appropriate to share with his dinner companions, is ironically compared to the philosophy of Empedokles and Anaxagoras (9.390–430).
It is in such a vein of comic euteleia, I argue, that Theodoros Prodromos and especially Niketas Eugeneianos employ the traditional motif of the banquet. In their use of this motif, Prodromos and Eugeneianos draw both on ancient Greek authors and on their contemporary Byzantine reality. In both Rhodanthe and Dosikles and Drosilla and Charikles, the banquet retains some of the functions that it fulfilled in the ancient Greek novel, notably its “function of completion” and its role as an occasion for the heroes’ summary narratives of their adventures. In addition to these conventional roles, dinner parties in these two Komnenian novels become the performative contexts of comic happenings. In Theodoros Prodromos, these comic elements are sometimes invested with a subtle rhetorical quality and a parodic or even satirical allusiveness. In Niketas Eugeneianos, the comic euteleia enhances the amphoteroglōssia of the overall story, because, despite its exceptionally grotesque character, it contributes to the promotion of the idea of “providence” (pronoia) in the novel.

Heroic prowess and rustic performances

In Rhodanthe and Dosikles comic incidents take place in two banquet scenes. [84] The marked genre and narratological value of these episodes is indicated already in the manuscript tradition where they are singled out as almost self-contained sections of the whole narrative. [85] In both cases the comic effect derives from the action of secondary characters. The hero and the heroine either conduct themselves decently, avoiding excesses and remaining sober (first banquet), or they are totally absent from the scene (second banquet). Such a selective distribution of roles in the context of a festive dinner corresponds to the conventions of the genre, which require that the two young lovers adhere to the rules of decorum. In Prodromos, both banquets contain allusions to literary tradition, on the one hand, and to Byzantine reality, on the other. The study of these allusions, which I undertake in the following part of this Chapter, will show that such comic incidents constitute the most dynamic genre modulations in the medieval Greek novel because they function on multiple intertextual and extratextual levels at the same time.
The description of the first banquet is a pivotal part of Dosikles’ narration of his adventures to his friend Kratandros (1.510–3.131). Exactly like the narrator of the novel, Dosikles begins his story in medias res, at the point when he and his beloved arrived at the island of Rhodes. Then he proceeds to describe the banquet at the house of Glaukon, a friend of their captain Stratokles. At the beginning, Dosikles stresses, Rhodanthe declined the invitation to the banquet because she was a virgin and therefore, as she explained to Dosikles, she should avoid the company of strange men (2.58–75). Eventually, however, her refusal, which can be viewed as a reflection of women’s position in Byzantine society, [86] gave way to Dosikles’ reassuring argumentation.
The order in which the dinner companions are seated at the banquet recalls the formality observed in analogous cases in Achilleus Tatios and Eumathios Makrembolites. The banquet becomes an occasion for great conviviality that culminates in the performance of songs and dance. Apparently Stratokles leads off the songs and the rest follow him. [87] The dance is performed by a sailor, Nausikrates. Dosikles describes his dance as especially befitting sailors (orchēsin nautikōteran; 2.109–110). Dosikles adds that Nausikrates’ movements were not devoid of a comic character and even a certain grace, despite their conspicuous rusticity (agroikikon), which is presented as a general inherent feature of the dancer. [88]
In the Greek novel, there is only one other case in which a similar dance is described. In Heliodoros’ Aithiopika, the Phoenician merchants who agree to take the young lovers and their mentor Kalasiris on their ship to help them escape Charikleia’s foster father perform a similar dance in another context, a religious feast in honor of Herakles. [89] In Heliodoros the situation is different since the protagonists are absent from the feast, the dancers are not Greek, and no reference is made to the comic character of their performance. However, some similarities between the two scenes in the Aithiopika and Rhodanthe and Dosikles may be noticed. In my view, these similarities indicate the possibility of a conscious reworking of the Heliodoran description by Prodromos. The Phoenician merchants are also sailors, exactly like Nausikrates. With the exception of their leaps, all the other movements of the Phoenician dancers are not considerably different from those of Nausikrates, whose name, not fortuitously, I think, recalls not only his professional capacity but also Nausikles, a secondary character in Heliodoros’ novel.
Despite the probable influence of Heliodoros on Prodromos’ description of Nausikrates’ dance, it does not seem that the ancient novelist was the only source of inspiration for the medieval Greek author. Prodromos’ insistence on the characterization of Nausikrates’ dance as an orchēsis nautikōtera may be seen as an allusion also to contemporary Byzantine reality. We know that in twelfth-century Byzantium specific kinds of dances were associated with sailors. Valuable in this respect is the information provided by Eustathios of Thessalonike that in his time sailors performed a particular dance resembling, he contends, the ancient laburinthos:
Καὶ τὸ ἔργον ἐκεῖνο τοῦ Δαιδάλου μετῆλθον εἰς μίμησιν καὶ νῦν ἔτι πολλοί, καὶ μάλιστα ναυτικοί, ὅσοι πρὸς τὸ παλαιὸν ἀνδρῶδες παρεκνεύουσι, χορόν τινα ἐλίττουσι ποικιλόστροφον καὶ πολυκαμπῆ τὰς τοῦ Λαβυρίνθου μιμεῖσθαι θέλοντες ἕλικας. [90]
And that famous work of Daidalos many men have imitated even today—especially seamen, those of them who lean toward the old prowess, whirl in a dance with many turns and many gyrations, wishing to imitate the spiral shape of laburinthos.
Prowess (ἀνδρῶδες) is an important feature of Nausikrates as well, which he exhibits not only with his skillful dancing but also with his brave death. Nausikrates’ death reveals a spirit not different from the overall heroic attitude of a Digenes Akrites or, for that matter, a hero of modern Greek kleftic songs. [91] Nonetheless, the positive impression of his prowess is undermined by the rusticity (agroikikon) of his manners as these are judged from the perspective of a more refined, urbane viewer like Dosikles. Nausikrates’ agroikikon, which may be responsible for the comic effect of his dance, enhances the rhetorical effect of the euteleia of the whole scene and introduces into this part of the novel an antithesis between aristocratic refinement and rusticity. This is parallel to the similar antithesis in Eugeneianos’ novel explored in Chapter Two. [92]
As a matter of fact, the euteleia of Nausikrates’ conduct during the banquet is later developed into a comic description of his image when he falls asleep after his drinking-bout (3.17–42). [93] Judging from the movements and the gestures of the sleeping Nausikrates, Dosikles, who now is narrating his story to his friend Kratandros, conjectures that the drunken reveler was dreaming that he was still drinking and dancing. Dosikles’ vivid description of the drunk and sleeping Nausikrates (3.19–32) makes Kratandros laugh. Kratandros recognizes the comic character of his friend’s story and welcomes it as a pleasant break amidst the misfortunes that have befallen them. [94]
It has been persuasively suggested that Dosikles’ account of Nausikrates’ conjectured dream reflects a renewed interest in the Aristotelian theory of dreams in twelfth-century Byzantium. [95] This observation might allow for the physiological aspects of Dosikles’ interpretation but not for the dynamics of the comic exploitation of the Aristotelian approach to dreams by Theodoros Prodromos. The image of the ridiculed, drunken Nausikrates, I contend, may have evoked for the medieval Greek audience of the novel similar topoi well established in the satirical literature of the era. Excessive drinking is one of the most frequent accusations employed by medieval Greek authors against the targets of their criticism. Occasionally this motif constitutes a pivotal part of a broader grotesque delineation of the satirized person not different from Dosikles’ portrayal of the drunk Nausikrates.
In his satire against a monk named Iakobos, composed as a parody of the religious poetic form of canon, Michael Psellos refers to immoderate drinking and dancing as the main characteristics of the object of his satire. The poem begins with the image of Iakobos’ revelry at an imagined banquet:
Μέθη καὶ πότος καὶ χορός, ᾿Ιάκωβε, ἡ σὴ πανήγυρις,
καὶ συμποτῶν κρότοι καὶ τρυφαὶ καὶ χάριτες,
ὀρχήματα καὶ κύμβαλα καὶ βοτρύων ἐκθλίψεις
καὶ ῥάγες ληνοβατούμεναι καὶ κοιλίαι πίθων πληρούμεναι. [96]
Iakobos, this is your feast: intoxication and drinking and dancing,
and clapping of the dinner-companions and indulgences and pleasures,
dances and cymbals and squeezing of grapes
and grapes pressed in wine-vats, and chock-full bellies of jars.
Excessive drinking constitutes the main motif of Psellos’ poem and is used in several variations, often including references to stereotypical Dionysiac imagery. [97] Iakobos’ body is referred to as a wineskin, [98] a comparison that recalls Dosikles’ similar description of Nausikrates’ belly (3.42).
In Anacharsis or Ananias, Niketas Eugeneianos, the probable author of this satire, depicts a most comic image of the target of his satire. “Anacharsis” drinks too much. He is an obsessive reveler who throws parties or, in Eugeneianos’ own Dionysiac diction, “celebrates the feast of Lenobatesia” every day:
οὐδὲ πολλοὺς ἡλίους ἀναλίσκων εἰς τὴν τῶν ἀμφορέων ἐκκένωσιν· καὶ ἐοίκασιν οἱ κιρνῶντες εἰς πίθον τῶν Δαναΐδων ἐπαντλεῖν. ἔνθα καὶ ὁ Διόνυσος ὀρχεῖται καὶ χορεύουσι τὰ ἐκπώματα· ... καὶ τῷ προπάτορι Νῶε θύει καθημέραν αὐτοσχέδιον σφάγιον καὶ ἑορτάζει Ληνοβατήσια καὶ τῷ̈ ἀπὸ μέθης κατακλυσμῷ τῶν ὀμμάτων κινδυνεύει ἀποπνιγήσεσθαι, ὁ θαλαττίου σκάρου δυσφθογγότερός τε καὶ δυσηχέστερος καὶ τῶν πολυπόδων συνουσιαστικώτερος. [99]
It does not take him too many days to drain the wine-jars. And the cupbearers seem to fill the leaking vessel of the Danaids. And there Dionysos dances and the cups leap ... and every day he sacrifices an improvised victim to our forefather Noah and celebrates the Lenobatesia, and he risks drowning in the deluge of his own eyes that drunkenness causes—this man who is more cacophonous and more ill-sounding than a parrot-wrasse and more salacious than a polupous.
Eugeneianos employs the topos of immoderate drinking and inappropriate behavior at dinner parties several times in his satire: “Anacharsis” is “ebb and Charybdis of wine” (οἴνου ἄμπωτις καὶ Χάρυβδις). [100] Drinking has almost destroyed his eyes. [101] His manners are so uncouth that he does not hesitate to bite his dirty nails while eating, thus making his dinner companions sick. [102] When he eats, he uses his hands as a shovel and soils his lips, cheeks, and chin with crumbs and broth. When he drinks, he snaps the empty cup with his teeth. [103]
Niketas Eugeneianos’ description is coupled with Niketas Choniates’ grotesque portrayal of Ioannes Kamateros, who has persuasively been identified as the “Anacharsis” of Eugeneianos’ satire:
ἀνθρώπων δὲ ὀψοφαγώτατος ὢν καὶ οἰνοφλύγων ὁ κράτιστος πρὸς λύριον ἔψαλλε καὶ πρὸς κιθάραν μετερρυθμίζετο καὶ κόρδακα ὠρχεῖτο καὶ τὼ πόδε πολλάκις παρενεσάλευε. [104]
Being the most gluttonous of all people and the master of the drunkards, he was singing to the accompaniment of the lyre and adjusted his rhythm to the kithara and was dancing kordax and many times was swinging to and fro.
In this passage, Choniates’ generic description of Kamateros’ dance as a kordax alludes to its rather indecent character, which somehow recalls Nausikrates’ agroikikon stremma kai lugisma.
These examples suffice to establish the idea that in the episode of Nausikrates, Theodoros Prodromos draws on the imagery employed in contemporary satirical literature, which, due to its topical character, must have reflected real events and situations, as the cases of both Niketas Eugeneianos and Niketas Choniates suggest.
Prodromos’ account of the banquet at Glaukon’s house and especially of the comic figure of Nausikrates, is based, therefore, not only on the possible borrowings from Heliodoros’ novel explored above but also, and more decisively, on his contemporary Byzantine life. The affinities of this scene with satirical literature enhance the rhetorical euteleia of Prodromos’ description and highlight the contrast between rusticity and heroism inherent in Nausikrates’ character, on the one hand, and between rusticity and the aristocratic ideal of asteiotēs embodied by the protagonist Dosikles, on the other. Moreover, the first of these two contrasts—that is, the antithesis between amusing rusticity and heroism exemplified by Nausikrates—suggests that Nausikrates’ story might have been viewed by Prodromos’ original audience, and certainly by a “theoretician” of literature such as Ioannes Tzetzes, as an episode pertaining to satyric poetry—that is, to the genre “which combines laughter with mourning.” In this respect, we should recall that Nausikrates’ comic performance takes place at a crucial juncture in the narrative, that is, exactly on the day before the attack of the pirates against the protagonists and their companions, which resulted in their arrest and the heroic death of Nausikrates. And it may not be without some relevance for our understanding of Nausikrates’ image that the succession of these antithetical events—the festive banquet followed by the unexpected attack of the pirates and, finally, Nausikrates’ subsequent heroic death—finds its parallel in the traditional epic vocabulary of modern Greek oral poetry. [105]

Cooking at the court: manipulating court rituals in Rhodanthe and Dosikles

The second comic banquet in Rhodanthe and Dosikles takes place in the fourth book of the novel. The context of this banquet is entirely different from that of the banquet at Glaukon’s home. The latter is informal, attended by friends who enjoyed a genuine and spontaneous feast; the former, more formal, attended by two enemies and serving a specific political agenda. Nevertheless, both events share comparable performative and comic aspects. They both constitute marked performative occasions that break the linearity of the narrative through the employment of dramatic elements.
The context of the second banquet is as follows: Artaxanes, an envoy of the king of Pissa Bryaxes, arrives at the court of Mistylos, the chief of the pirates who have arrested the protagonists, bearing a letter from Bryaxes. In the letter, which has the form of an ultimatum, Bryaxes disputes Mistylos’ rule over the city of Rhamnon: if Mistylos does not yield up the city, Bryaxes will declare war against him. Although greatly upset, Mistylos does not express his agitation. He commands his dignitary (satrapēs) Gobryas to prepare a banquet in honor of the Pissan envoy. The purpose of the banquet is to impress the guest.
In the description of this banquet, Theodoros Prodromos demonstrates a unique dexterity in combining indirect references to his contemporary Byzantine reality with subtle allusions to literary tradition. The comic effect of the scene is based on an intricate nexus of multilayered extratextual and intertextual allusions. As a result, the whole passage is invested with a complex amphoteroglōssia that functions on several levels at the same time. Parody—possibly accompanied by satire—is the main device that Prodromos employs here in order to achieve this effect. The scene of this banquet should be viewed as an indirect glorification of the power of art in general and Prodromos’ own literary art in particular. Culinary art, rhetoric, court poetry, religious poetry, mime, and ceremonial rituals are all combined and subordinated to the author’s orchestrating and parodying creative art; these elements construct a literary artifact of a complex comic character, which only a special audience such as the one frequenting the twelfth-century rhetorical theaters could have adequately appreciated.
From the very beginning, the scene of the reception of Artaxanes reflects the prescriptions of medieval Greek ceremonial protocol. Simple details in Prodromos’ description acquire marked referential allusiveness, if viewed in the context of Byzantine court rituals. Although no treatise on court ceremonial survives from twelfth-century Byzantium, we could gain some idea about it from the historiography as well as the court literature of the time, mainly court poetry and oratory, which was abundantly produced throughout the reign of the Komnenoi. The later treatise by Pseudo-Kodinos, [106] but especially the detailed earlier one attributed to Konstantinos Porphyrogennetos, if used with caution, might also help us reconstruct the general atmosphere of Byzantine court ceremonial. [107]
At the arrival of the Pissan envoy, Mistylos sits on an elevated throne surrounded by his retinue. The author places special emphasis on this detail:
αὐτὸς δ’ ἐπ’ ὀκρίβαντος εἰς θρόνον μέγαν
ὑψοῦ καθεσθεὶς καὶ τιτανῶδες βλέπων,
τῆς σατραπικῆς στρατιᾶς εἰς τὸν θρόνον
ἱσταμένης κύκλωθεν εὐφυεῖ στάσει,
καλεῖν κελεύει τὸν σταλέντα σατράπην.
Sitting on a large, elevated throne based on a platform,
and staring with a titanic-like look,
and having his throne surrounded by the army of his satraps,
who were standing in an orderly position,
he commanded the [foreign] satrap be presented to him.
The titanic-like look of the barbarian leader contributes to the awe-inspiring effect of his whole appearance. Artaxanes, on the contrary, bows his head in front of Mistylos’ feet and gives him the letter.
The contrast in the positions of the two enemies corresponds, I argue, to the ceremony of the reception of foreign dignitaries at the medieval Greek court. In a speech delivered on the occasion of the visit of the Sultan Kiliç Arslan II at the court of Manuel I Komnenos in 1161, Euthymios Malakes refers to a similar difference in the position of the two leaders that he interprets as indicative of the Byzantine Emperor’s superiority over his visitor. [108] Western authors of the same period provide interesting information regarding this aspect of Byzantine court protocol. In his account of the reception of Amaury I, King of Jerusalem, at the court of Manuel I in 1171, William of Tyre notes that the Byzantine Emperor was seated on a golden throne wearing his imperial robes while his visitor was seated on another throne but lower than that of the Emperor. [109] An indirect confirmation of the symbolic significance of the difference in seat placement is also found in Odo of Deuil’s description of Louis VII’s visit to Constantinople in 1147. Odo, whose overall account bespeaks a rather unfriendly attitude toward the medieval Greeks, does not spare the detail that the two sovereigns sat merely on two chairs, thus implying that the ceremony of the specific reception indicated no difference in status. [110]
In Prodromos’ novel, such symbolically charged spatial arrangements introduce hierarchical associations with clear political effects in the narrative. After he was received by Mistylos, Artaxanes was led by Gobryas to a hall specifically assigned for the reception of foreign envoys where the dinner would be served (ἐν δόμοις,/πρὸς τηλικούτων εἰσδοχὴν τεταγμένοις; 4.115–116). Again, this detail does not depart from the rigid protocol of the reception of foreign envoys at the Byzantine court. [111] From this point on, Prodromos, although continuing to allude to the psychological and subsequent political effectiveness of Byzantine ceremonies, proceeds to construct his own, more grotesque, version of it. Artaxanes is served now a “marvelous dinner” (δεῖπνον ... πρὸς τὸ θαυμάσιον ἡτοιμασμένον; 4.122–123). This characterization prepares Prodromos’ audience for the unexpected event that follows: Artaxanes is served a roast lamb; when he tries to cut it, a flock of small sparrows come out of its belly and begin to fly above his head. Artaxanes is dumbfounded (ἦλθεν εἰς θάμβος μέγα; 4.130). Later, when he hears Gobryas’ exaggerated interpretation of the incident, his surprise is transformed into terror (4.173–188; cf. 5.52).
The culinary marvel performed at this banquet may be compared to the technological marvels demonstrated to foreign visitors at the Byzantine court. [112] Liutprand of Cremona relates his own experience of such shows, whereas De Cerimoniis provides detailed prescriptions of their proper use in court ceremonial. [113] In respect to Liutprand’s visit at the Byzantine court, though, I should add that his overall attitude was substantially different from that of Artaxanes. Not only was his reaction to the Byzantine technological marvels at least apathetic; his response to Byzantine cuisine was clearly contemptuous. Here are his memories from a formal banquet that he attended at the Byzantine palace:
I sat fifteenth from [the emperor] and without a tablecloth. Not only did no more of my suite sit with me: they did not even set eyes upon the house where I was entertained. This dinner ... was quite nasty and unspeakable, drunkenly awash with oil and seasoned with another very unpleasant liquid made from fish. [114]
Later in his account, Liutprand offers additional, rather ironic, comments on Byzantine food:
The sacred emperor lessened my woes with a big gift, sending me one of his most delicate dishes, a fat kid of which he had himself partaken—proudly stuffed with garlic, onion, leeks, awash in garum. [115]
The lamb that Gobryas served to Artaxanes was, no doubt, prepared in a much more imaginative manner than the kid that the Byzantine Emperor sent to Liutprand. It has been pointed out that the image of the roast lamb out of whose belly a flock of live birds flew finds a parallel in Petronius’ Cena Trimalchionis. [116] Although there is no evidence to indicate that Petronius’ text was available to twelfth-century Greek writers, this parallel foregrounds, at least, the grotesque nature of the motif. No direct link is to be assumed between the Greek and the Latin author, although some comparable cases in medieval Western European literature that I have been able to locate may point to possible intermediary intertextual connections. [117] In any case I would rather stress that the culinary marvel in Prodromos’ novel constitutes a variation of this author’s general and often almost self-indulgent interest in the motif of food, which he exhibits even in contexts where one would not normally expect it. [118]
As already noted, comic emphasis on excessive eating or drinking is an established topos in medieval Greek satire. Timarion should be added to the list of texts discussed at the beginning of this Chapter in connection with satirical manipulation of the motif of food. Meat is described as one of the delicacies that the gluttonous sophist, Theodoros of Smyrna, craves in Timarion. This is how he formulates his order to the homonymous hero of the satire:
My boy, please send me a five-month-old lamb, two three-year-old hens that have been fattened and slaughtered. The kind the poulterers sell in the market. I mean the kind that good butchers have removed the stomach fat from and laid it across their thighs on the outside and a one-month-old sucking pig and a nice fat and fleshy sow’s belly. [119]
Closer to the effect of culinary novelty exhibited at the Prodromic banquet is the originality of an unusual dish described by Eustathios of Thessalonike in one of his letters. Eustathios, who associates literary discourse on food and banquets with the styles of apheleia and euteleia, dwells on a playful rhetorical description of a repast that had marked his memory. Eustathios was amazed at the elaborate preparation of that dish. A cooked bird, he recollects, was hidden inside some kind of dough that had been baked in the shape of a ball. As a matter of fact, Eustathios stresses, the dough functioned also as a kind of pot since the bird had been actually boiled in it. This thing, he recalls, was wondrous (terastion) indeed. Eustathios feels that only a riddle could express the complexity of the dish, and he invents one: “what thing, albeit one in number, is at the same time a dish and a pot and a meal and a table?” True to his statement that his description of this dish has been composed as a rhetorical response to the challenging intricacy of the culinary marvel, Eustathios formulates the riddle in an iambic verse: τράπεζα, πίναξ, ψωμός, ὄψον καὶ χύτρα (“a table, a dish, bread, a meal, and a pot”). [120]
Parallels with other ancient or contemporary cultures illustrate how food and dining protocol reflect and reinforce social conventions as well as established power structures in various societies. An example from a prominent ancient “barbarian” culture may be of some comparative interest here. Herakleides gives a vivid description of the banquet etiquette at the Persian court. Preparation of the Emperor’s dinner, he notes, took almost half a day and was served by servants dressed in white. When the Emperor had guests, some of them dined outdoors and the rest indoors; even the latter would not eat in the Emperor’s presence but in a separate room. The Emperor could see his diners through the curtain of his dining room without being seen by them. Whenever he decided to have companions at a drinking-bout, “these fellow-drinkers were summoned by one of the eunuchs; and entering they would drink with him, though even they did not have the same wine; moreover, they sat on the floor, while he reclined on a couch supported by feet of gold” (my emphasis). [121]
Goody has studied the sociocultural implications of dining symbolism in a number of modern and premodern societies. In medieval England, he notes, “differences in rank were emphasized in differences in food and in service. The high table was always served first. Then the food was carried to the next table in rank, known as the ‘reward’ because it was rewarded or supplied from the high table. Less valued parts of meat were served at the lower end of the table.” [122]
Here, one cannot help recalling Ptochoprodromos’ grotesque depiction of the sumptuous banquets of the abbots as opposed to the spartan diet of the poor low-rank monks. The privileged monks, says Ptochoprodromos, are served a great number of elaborate courses. His description enumerates the dishes, one after the other, in a breathless Aristophanic manner: roasted meat, soups, several kinds of fish, and so forth. By contrast, to Ptochoprodromos and his peers only a tasteless broth, a “viral soup,” and some beans were served. [123]
The presentation of food retains its symbolic dynamism also in contemporary postindustrial societies. Food often continues to function as a “social marker.” The symbolic associations of food are especially foregrounded on specific ritual or otherwise marked occasions that break the routine of everyday life. In such contexts, changes in the quality or quantity of food are observed. Sumptuous and complex or exceptionally spartan meals—depending on the symbolic vocabulary of a given society—signify the particularity of these occasions. [124] As for spatial marking of status differences at banquets, Goody emphatically reminds us that the medieval tradition of high table is still preserved in such sophisticated academic institutions as the Oxbridge colleges. [125]
The marvelous dinner prepared by the sophisticated barbarians in Rhodanthe and Dosikles manipulates a number of basic sociocultural polarizations—exotic/familiar, formal/informal, high/low, hegemonic/hegemonized, traditional/experimental—in order to highlight the antithesis between the two conflicting groups of barbarians in the novel. [126] The culinary experimentation displayed for Artaxanes underscores the formality of the event—the reception of the foreign envoy—while exhibiting at the same time the host’s virtuosity in contriving refined “miracles” that can intimidate his guest. I would view this banquet, therefore, as a complex parodic reenactment of Byzantine ceremonial’s “conspicuous virtuosity.” [127]

“Should a man get pregnant?” The rhetoric of the grotesque

The mere identification of possible parallels of the marvelous dish in Prodromos’ novel with either court ceremonial, as described by Liutprand and the author of De Cerimoniis, or Petronius, is not sufficient to illustrate fully the multilayered comic character of the episode. Prodromos’ allusions to court “marvels” should be seen rather within the broader context of the specific scene, which, to my mind, has been constructed as a synthesis of different individual parodic elements. [128]
As has been aptly observed about the function of food imagery in fictional narrative in general, “to turn food into spectacle is the Novel’s comic crime.” [129] The parodic “crime” of the spectacular dinner in Prodromos’ novel is first executed through the demonstration of Gobryas’ rhetorical mastery. In a long display of eloquence, Gobryas explains to the dumbfounded Artaxanes that the miraculous dish was prepared thanks to Mistylos’ supernatural powers. Mistylos is so mighty that even nature succumbs to his will:
“ ὁρᾷς,” ἔλεξε, “παμέγγιστε σατράπα,
τοῦ δεσπότου μου τὴν δύναμιν Μιστύλου,
ὡς ἐξαμείβειν ἰσχύει καὶ τὰς φύσεις,
καιναῖς ἀμοιβαῖς καὶ τροπαῖς πολυτρόποις
τρέπων ἕκαστα καὶ μεθιστῶν ὡς θέλει.
ὁρᾷς τὸν ἀρνὸν ὡς κυΐσκει στρουθία·
τῆς φύσεως μὲν ἀγνοήσας τὸν νόμον,
ὡς πτηνὸν ὄρνιν πτηνὸς ὄρνις ἐκκύει,
ἀρνὸς πετεινὰ βλαστάνει τῶν ἐγκάτων.”
“[Artaxanes] greatest satrap,” [Gobryas] said, “you see
the power of my master Mistylos,
how he can transform even nature,
changing and altering things as he wishes,
with extraordinary modifications and in various ways.
You see how the lamb gives birth to birds;
ignoring the laws of nature
and like the winged birds that give birth to winged birds,
the lamb brings forth birds from its viscera.”
Gobryas concludes his interpretation of the culinary marvel with an indirect threat against Artaxanes and his people: Mistylos could use his unbeatable power against his enemies in the war. He can even impregnate them with ... puppies:
ἦ που κελεύσας κἀν μέσαις τυχὸν μάχαις
καὶ στρατιώτας ἄνδρας, ἁδροὺς ὁπλίτας,
σπάθαις σὺν αὐταῖς καὶ μετ’ αὐτῶν ἀσπίδων,
γεννήτορας δείξειε πολλῶν σκυλάκων,
καὶ γαστέρας θώραξιν ἠσφαλισμένας
ἐγκυμονεῖν πείσειεν ξένα.
As a matter of fact, by giving just an order
in the middle of a battle,
he could make the manly soldiers, the vigorous warriors
—in spite of their swords and shields—
give birth to numerous puppies,
and he could persuade their bellies,
even if they are protected by shields,
to become pregnant with marvelous children.
The Greek word for puppy, skulax, is invested here not so much with macabre connotations, as has been suggested, [130] but rather, I contend, with comic sexual allusions. Hesychios informs us that this word denotes a specific sexual position: “Skulax: a sexual position like that practiced by those who imitate the sexual habits of the Phoenicians” (Σκύλαξ: σχῆμα ἀφροδισιακόν, ὡς τὸ τῶν φοινικιζόντων). [131] Gobryas, in other words, underlines the prowess and omnipotence of his master by subtly alluding to his sexual potency as well, which can have a rather humiliating and unorthodox effect on his enemies. [132]
Artaxanes takes Gobryas’ threat at face value and is scared to death. He asks Gobryas to spare him from such an ignominious pregnancy. Artaxanes is extremely bewildered. He cannot understand how men can get impregnated:
ποῦ γὰρ παρ’ ἡμῖν καὶ γάλακτος ἐκχύσεις,
εἴ που δεήσει φυσικῷ πάντως λόγῳ
γάλακτος ὁλκοῖς ἐκτραφῆναι τὰ βρέφη;
ἄλλως δὲ καὶ πῶς τὴν τοσαύτην αἰσχύνην
ἀνὴρ στρατάρχης καρτερήσειν ἰσχύσει
ἐγκυμονῶν ἄθλιος ἄθλια βρέφη;
How can we [being men] produce milk,
if, as is natural,
the babies need to be fed with milk?
And, in any case, how can a manly general
bear such a shame,
if the poor fellow gets pregnant with detestable babies?
If, as I argued earlier, humor in real life often entails a playful distancing from, or even a subversion of, established order, its literary manipulation usually involves an ironic or critical—that is, satirical or parodic—intrusion of the narrator’s perspective in the main narrative. [133] In the specific scene, around the impossibility (ἀδύνατον) of the culinary marvel and Gobryas’ paradoxical claim, which, however, is believed by the naïve Artaxanes, Theodoros Prodromos constructs an elaborate parodic argument that draws creatively on established rhetorical conventions. In this manner, Prodromos composes an extended parodic version of what Hermogenes defines as “Socratic symposium.” [134]
The topic in question is whether it is possible, and appropriate, for a man to become pregnant and give birth to babies. The whole discussion of this topic may be read as a parody of the established rhetorical genres of anaskeuē (refutation) and kataskeuē (confirmation), which, according to Aphthonios, constitute the quintessence of rhetorical art. [135] However, the original version of the issue as formulated by Artaxanes has a rather mixed character: it can also be taken as close to the progumnasma of thesis, the character of which is by no means very different from anaskeuē or kataskeuē. [136]
In the diction of the traditional form of thesis, as this is prescribed by Hermogenes and Aphthonios, the question about the prepon (proper) of a man’s giving birth to babies could have been expressed as follows: “should a man give birth to babies?” [137] Such a formulation of the matter under discussion would correspond to the “political theses,” in Hermogenes’ and Aphthonios’ terminology, [138] or to “practical theses,” in Theon’s terms. [139] More specifically, in Hermogenes’ system, this problem would be classified under the category of the theseis that examine an issue in relation to a specific subject (αἱ κατὰ τὸ πρός τι λαμβάνονται) like the problem “should a king get married?” (εἰ γαμητέον βασιλεῖ) [140] since Gobryas and Artaxanes discuss the issue of giving birth only in relation to a particular group of people, that is, men, and especially soldiers!
But the issue, as put by Artaxanes, has two sides: first, the already mentioned “practical” and, second, the “theoretical.” The latter may be expressed in the following terms: Do men give birth to babies? If yes, how can they produce milk in order to feed them? [141] These questions constitute the “theoretical” aspect of the thesis and correspond to what Hermogenes calls “not political theseis [142] or to the “theoretical theseis” in the systems of Theon and Aphthonios. [143] Nonetheless, Prodromos seems to adhere to the demands of traditional rhetoric only to some extent since his purpose here is to undermine and play with the expectations of those members of his audience who would have been familiar with established rhetorical conventions.
On the one hand, he apparently follows the traditional definition of thesis: “thesis is the logical investigation of any topic that is examined” (θέσις ἐστὶν ἐπίσκεψις λογικὴ θεωρουμένου τινὸς πράγματος), in Aphthonios’ definition [144] or, in Theon’s terms, “thesis is a logical investigation of any topic that can be debated” (θέσις ἐστὶν ἐπίσκεψις λογική, ἀμφισβήτησιν ἐπιδεχομένη). [145] The whole discussion in Prodromos’ novel revolves around a dubious issue indeed and is constructed on apparently logical arguments based on a supposedly real event: the preservation of the live birds in the roasted belly of the lamb!
On the other hand, Prodromos’ treatment of thesis, which according to the theoreticians of the genre involves the process of antithesis and solution (lusis), of anaskeuazein and kataskeuazein, takes the form of a complex anaskeuē and kataskeuē indeed. At the same time, it defies an important rule of these two last progumnasmata prescribed most explicitly by Apththonios. According to this principle, subject matters of such compositions should be topics that are not very clear or totally impossible but belong to a middle category. [146] On the contrary, what really happens is that Artaxanes and Gobryas are dealing here with an issue that is totally impossible (adunaton). I would view this adunaton as an example of the third “method” of “speaking comically” (κωμικῶς λέγειν) that Hermogenes discusses in his Peri Methodou Deinotētos (On Forcefulness): it is a case of contradictory imagery (ἐναντίας ποιεῖσθαι τὰς εἰκόνας). [147]
Artaxanes’ “problem” is dealt with in an anaskeuē of his views by Gobryas. As a matter of fact, this takes the function of a kataskeuē of an argument for the possibility and the positive moral character of men’s giving birth to babies. Following the usual rhetorical practice, Gobryas’ kataskeuē begins with a reprimand of Artaxanes’ “irreverent” doubts, and proceeds to prove that there is nothing wrong with the whole issue. In order to substantiate his view, Gobryas provides the example of Zeus, the god of gods, who gave birth to Dionysos and Athena. If Zeus did that, who, then, can call in question the morality of such marvelous deliveries? [148]
The possible validity of the theoretical aspect of the issue, that is, whether men are able to give birth to babies, which is demonstrated by Gobryas’ use of mythological exempla, had been also already suggested by both the extraordinary dish served to Artaxanes—the “pregnant” roast lamb—and Gobryas’ elaborate praise of Mistylos. Culinary art—the marvelous dinner—and rhetorical art—Gobryas’ elaborate encomium of Mistylos—function as proleptical kataskeuai of the theoretical aspect of the thesis. The logical impossibility (adunaton) of the thesis—a pregnant man—is annulled by means of the “actual” possibility (dunaton) of the culinary miracle just performed before Artaxanes’ eyes. On this apparently dunaton paradox Gobryas bases the plausibility (pithanon) of his rhetorical construction, employing a long series of paradoxes, which in their turn underline Mistylos’ supernatural power. This encomium does not follow the rules of ancient Greek rhetoric. Rather, it recalls the genre conventions of contemporary Byzantine court poetry written in honor of the Emperor, such as the encomiastic poems composed by Theodoros Prodromos himself and described by Hörandner as “Genuin Byzantinischen.” [149] Like this occasional poetry, Gobryas’ laudatory speech exploits traditional rhetorical figures such as polyptoton, paronomasia, alliteration, oxymoron, parallelism, and repetition. On a first level, these rhetorical devices enhance the encomiastic character of Gobryas’ speech. On a second level, they serve the parodic character of the whole scene since they contribute to Gobryas’ paradoxical argumentation.

Playing with fire: parodic allusions to hymnography

Rhetoric is not the only discourse parodied here. Behind Prodromos’ allusions to pagan antiquity I discern a subtle parodic appropriation of the imagery and form of Christian hymnography as well. Gobryas’ kataskeuē of the absurd thesis under discussion alludes to the miraculous birth of Christ. Gobryas’ emphasis on the example of Zeus, the god of gods, who gave birth to the effeminate Dionysos and to Athena, a female god, sounds like a reversed and not very reverent version of the mystery of the Nativity. Instead of the expected theological thesis “how was the Virgin able to give birth to God,” we are offered the playful theoretical thesis “how can a man give birth to babies and, in particular, to dogs?”
The abundance of antitheses, and especially of paradoxa and oxymora in Gobryas’ speech, may have been modeled on several examples of religious poetry. The best and most famous case is the Akathistos Hymnos, particularly since this hymn deals exactly with the Virgin and the miracle of her motherhood. Central in the Akathistos is the antithesis of rhetoric and religious dogma, which revolves around the pivotal issue of the birth of Christ. Mary’s miraculous childbirth (ξένος τόκος) surpasses the expressive power of rhetors:
ῥήτορας πολυφθόγγους ὡς ἰχθύας ἀφώνους
ὁρῶμεν ἐπὶ σοὶ Θεοτόκε.
ἀποροῦσι γὰρ λέγειν τὸ πῶς
καὶ παρθένος μένεις καὶ τεκεῖν ἴσχυσας ...
Χαῖρε φιλοσόφους ἀσόφους δεικνύουσα.
Χαῖρε τεχνολόγους ἀλόγους ἐλέγχουσα.
Χαῖρε ὅτι ἐμωράνθησαν οἱ δεινοὶ συζητηταί·
Χαῖρε ὅτι ἐμαράνθησαν οἱ τῶν μύθων ποιηταί. [150]
Before you, Mother of God, we see
wordy orators as voiceless as fish:
they are at a loss to explain
how it is that you are still a virgin and yet had the power to give birth ...
Hail to you who show the philosophers to be fools.
Hail to you who prove men of letters to be men of no wisdom.
Hail to you, for able disputers have been shown to be idiots.
Hail to you, for the composers of mythical poetry have been made to wane. [151]
Whereas in the Akathistos the miracle of the Nativity overcomes the intellectual capacity of rhetors, in Gobryas’ speech it is rhetoric—not less than culinary art—that manages to contrive a fake miracle. Gobryas’ insistence on the miraculous “womb” (mētra) of the lamb (arnos) recalls an established image in hymnography: the mētra of the arnos, a sanctioned symbol of Christ himself, functions as an allusion to the mētra of Christ’s mother, the amnas. [152] Byzantine religious poetry offers many examples of a creative, although ultimately stereotypical, exploitation of the theme. In Romanos Melodos’ second hymn on the Nativity, for instance, the Virgin addresses her son with these words:
σὺ καρπός μου, σὺ ζωή μου ...
Οὐκ οἶδα σποράν, οἶδα σε λύτην τῆς φθορᾶς
... ὡς γὰρ ἔλιπες μήτραν ἐμὴν φυλάξας σῴαν αὐτήν. [153]
You are my fruit, you are my life ...
I have not experienced impregnation, I have experienced you as the savior from the decay
... since you left my womb preserving it intact.
One of the main points in Gobryas’ eloquent encomium of Mistylos’ power is the fact that the fire did not manage to burn the birds inside the “womb” of the roasted lamb:
ὁρᾷς, ἄριστε σατραπῶν ᾿Αρταξάνη,
τοῦ δεσπότου μου τοῦ μεγίστου τὸ κράτος,
ὡς ἐξαμείβει καὶ τυραννεῖ τὰς φύσεις,
ψυχρὰν δὲ ποιεῖ τοῦ πυρὸς τὴν οὐσίαν ...
ἀρνοὺς δὲ ποιεῖ στρουθοπάτορας ξένους [154]
καὶ μήτραν ἀρτίφλεκτον ἐξωπτημένην,
βρεφῶν ἀκαύστων, ἐμβρύων καταπτέρων
γεννήτριαν δείκνυσιν ἐκ μόνου λόγου.
You see, Artaxanes, greatest among the satraps,
the power of my mighty master,
how it transforms and governs nature,
the essence of fire making cool,
the lambs it makes marvelous parents of birds,
and the womb that has just been burnt and roasted
his power turns into the mother of unburnt, winged embryos,
only by means of words.
The motif of the fire that burns without causing any harm recalls the miracle of the burning bush, a traditional symbol of the Virgin Mary. [155] In hymnography, the paradox of harmless fire is used to describe the mystery of the Nativity. Again in Romanos’ second hymn on the Nativity, the Virgin says about her son: πῦρ ὑπάρχων ᾠκησέ μου/τὴν γαστέρα καὶ οὐ κατέφλεξεν ἐμὲ τὴν ταπεινήν [156] (“although being fire, he inhabited my womb and did not burn me, the humble woman”). In Kosmas’ canon on the Nativity, the same image is used to describe the miracle of the birth of God:
θαύματος ὑπερφυῶς ἡ δροσοβόλος
ἐξεικόνισε κάμινος τρόπον.
οὐ γὰρ οὓς ἐδέξατο φλέγει νέους ὡς οὐδὲ πῦρ
τῆς Θεότητος Παρθένου ἣν ὑπέδυ νηδύν. [157]
The cool furnace prefigured the nature
of the miracle in a supernatural manner:
it did not burn the Three Children whom it received,
exactly as the fire of divinity did not burn the womb of the Virgin when it entered it.
The same image appears also in Ioannes of Damaskos’ canon on the Nativity:
μήτραν ἀφλέκτως εἰκονίζουσι Κόρης
οἱ τῆς παλαιᾶς πυρπολούμενοι νέοι
ὑπερφυῶς κύουσαν, ἐσφραγισμένην. [158]
By not being burnt,
the Three Children of the Old Testament represent
the womb of the Virgin, which, albeit sealed, gives supernatural birth.
Here, as in Kosmas’ canon, the comparison is between the fire in the furnace of the Three Children that did not burn them, a motif taken from the Old Testament, and the fire of God that did not burn the Virgin’s womb. Prodromos gives this sanctioned motif a most grotesque twist: Mary’s womb is transformed into the belly of the roasted lamb, which, although dead, that is, burnt, gives birth to the birds. Furthermore, the image of the lamb’s “womb” plays with the ideas of life (the live birds) and death (the burnt belly of the lamb). Life is preserved in death and the latter is replaced by the former in a paradoxical way that exemplifies the regenerative character of the grotesque. [159]
The possibility of a parodic appropriation of the discourse of religious poetry by Theodoros Prodromos here is further corroborated by some intriguing evidence provided by Prodromos’ own commentaries precisely on the above-mentioned canons. [160] These commentaries, which have escaped the attention of previous scholarship on the Komnenian novels, will elucidate the intricate ways in which Prodromos has articulated the poetics of his novel. Prodromos’ interpretations of the poems of Ioannes of Damaskos and Kosmas leave no doubt about his conscious appropriation of the hymnographic topos of harmless fire in Gobryas’ speech. Commenting on Kosmas’ canon, Prodromos observes:
ἡ ... κάμινος ἡ τὴν παρθενικὴν τυποῦσα νηδὺν ἐκείνη τὸ καῖον ἔχουσα τοὺς ὑποδεχθέντας οὐ κατέφλεξε νέους. ᾿Ενταῦθα δὲ ὁ τὴν μήτραν ὑποδεὶς καὶ ὑποδεχθείς, ἐκεῖνος ἔχων τὸ πῦρ, μᾶλλον δὲ πῦρ ὤν, τὴν ὑποδεξαμένην αὐτὸν ἀντιστρόφως μήτραν οὐκ ἔκαυσε. [161]
Despite its fire, the furnace, which prefigures the womb of the Virgin, did not burn the youths that it received; in our case [sc. the miracle of the Nativity] He who, conversely, entered and was received into the womb did not burn the womb, although He bears fire or, rather, He is fire Himself.
Similar are Prodromos’ remarks on the canon of Ioannes of Damaskos:
οἱ ἐπὶ τῆς Παλαιᾶς Γραφῆς ἀπυρπολήτως πυρπολούμενοι νέοι τὴν μήτραν τῆς ἀειπαρθένου εἰκονίζουσι Θεομήτορος, τὴν μετὰ τὸ ὑπερφυῶς γεννῆσαι ἐσφραγισμένην διαμείνασαν· πλὴν ἐκεῖ μὲν ἐν τῇ καμίνῳ οἱ παῖδες ἱστάμενοι ἀπείρατοι διέμενον τοῦ πυρός, ἐνταῦθα δὲ τὸ ἐναντίον ἅπαν· ἐντὸς ἔχουσα τὸ πῦρ τῆς Θεότητος ἡ Θεομήτωρ οὐ κατεφλέγετο· ὅπερ πολὺ ἐκείνου παραδοξότερον. [162]
The Three Children of the Old Testament who were put into fire but were not burnt represent the womb of the Virgin Mother of God, which remained sealed even after the supernatural birth. In that case, the Children, although staying in the furnace, remained untouched by the fire, but here just the reverse holds true: although having inside Her the fire of divinity, the Mother of God was not burnt, which is much more miraculous than the incident of the Old Testament.
In his commentary on another troparion from Kosmas’ canon, Theodoros Prodromos ridicules Greek mythology in order to prove the superiority of Christian theology. His analysis of Kosmas’ canon sounds like a perfect anaskeuē of his own parodic kataskeuē in the novel. His main argument here is that the ancient Greek myths that speak about a male god, such as Zeus, who gives birth to a child are altogether nonsensical. The theoretical thesis, therefore, “can a man give birth to a child?” is tacitly subjected here to a totally different argumentation than that in the novel, and of course receives a negative answer:
ἐκ γαστρὸς δὲ γεγεννῆσθαι τὸν Μονογενῆ παρὰ Θεοῦ καὶ Πατρὸς λέγομεν, οὐχ ὡς σωματικὰς ὑπονοίας περὶ τῆς ἀνάρχου καὶ ἀσωμάτου φύσεως ἔχοντες, οὐχ ὡς γαστέρα ἐμβρυοδόχον τῷ ἀνάρχῳ Πατρὶ καὶ ὠδῖνάς τινας καὶ λοχείας προσάπτοντες· ῾Ελλήνων γὰρ ὁ ὗθλος οὗτος οἵτινες τοσοῦτον τοὺς ἑαυτῶν θεοὺς ἀπογυναικοῦσιν ὥστε οὐ γαστέρας μόνον ἀλλ’ ἤδη που καὶ κεφαλὰς καὶ μηροὺς ἐμβρυοδόχους τούτοις διδόασι. καὶ τὰς μὲν πελέκει διελόντες δυστοκοῦντος δήπου τοὺς θεοὺς καὶ τὰς ὠδῖνας οὐ στέγοντος θυγατέρα ἐκεῖθεν ἐξαγοῦσιν ἔνοπλον. Τοὺς δὲ μηροὺς τὸν ῥαφέα λινὸν περιελόντες κραιπαλῶντα ἤδη καὶ ὑποβεβρεγμένον ἐξ αὐτῆς τῆς ὠδῖνος υἱὸν προΐσχουσι Διόνυσον. [163]
We say that Christ was born by our God and Father, not in the sense that we attribute bodily qualities to incorporeal God nor that we attach to Him a childbearing womb and pains of childbirth. These are nonsensical tales of the ancient Greeks, whose gods are so effeminate that they are endowed not only with wombs, but also with childbearing heads and thighs. And by breaking open with an axe the head of a god allegedly suffering in childbirth and not bearing the pangs of childbirth, they produce thence an armed daughter. And by removing the bands from the thigh [of Zeus], from such throes of childbirth they produce a son, the already intoxicated and drunk Dionysos. [164]
I believe that this part of Prodromos’ analysis of Kosmas’ canon has been based on Gregorios of Nazianzos’ homily on Epiphany. [165] In this oration, Gregorios dwells extensively on the miracle of Christ’s birth and opposes it to ancient Greek myths, which, as he notes bitterly, were not real mysteries but illusions and misleading twaddle. [166] In the introduction to his speech, Gregorios enumerates those ancient Greek stories that speak about miraculous births of gods only in order to ridicule them:
οὐδὲ Διόνυσος ταῦτα καὶ μηρός, ὠδίνων ἀτελὲς κύημα, ὥσπερ ἄλλο τι κεφαλὴ πρότερον· καὶ θεὸς ἀνδρόγυνος καὶ χορὸς μεθυόντων, καὶ στρατὸς ἔκλυτος. [167]
These are not the same things as the stories about the thigh and Dionysos, the incomplete fetus, or like the other story before about the head [of Zeus]; they are not about an androgynous god nor about an army of intoxicated people or a lascivious army.
Gregorios of Nazianzos was one of the most appreciated Christian authors throughout Byzantium and his direct influence on Theodoros Prodromos is very likely. [168] However, another source of inspiration could also be detected here: Pseudo-Nonnos’ commentary on Gregorios’ homilies. Pseudo-Nonnos offers a more detailed description of the ancient myths referred to in Gregorios’ homilies than Gregorios himself. In his comments on the birth of Dionysos, Pseudo-Nonnos narrates how Zeus first took the fetus from Semele and then sewed it into his thigh. [169] The description of the same myth in Prodromos’ novel follows a similar sequence. Furthermore, Pseudo-Nonnos’ detailed description of Dionysos’ company, Satyrs and Maenads, who indulge in revelry, [170] can be compared to the detailed description of the depiction of Dionysos and his entourage on a precious cup used during Gobryas’ banquet. [171]
Another fact should also be noted in connection with Prodromos’ reference to the ancient Greek myths of Zeus’ miraculous deliveries and its allusions to an established Christian topos. Four manuscripts from the eleventh and twelfth centuries preserve several illustrations to Pseudo-Nonnos’ commentary. Along with Pseudo-Nonnos’ text these manuscripts contain also Gregorios’ homilies. [172] Some of these illustrations depict the story of Dionysos’ and Athena’s births. In two manuscripts, the birth of Dionysos is depicted in three phases. [173] In the first phase, Zeus takes the embryo from the womb of the dead Semele, who has been struck by the thunderbolt; [174] in the second, he sews it into his thigh; [175] and in the last one, he delivers Dionysos as a baby. [176] In two other manuscripts, only the third phase, that is, the delivery of the baby Dionysos, is depicted. [177] Athena’s birth is illustrated only in the Jerusalem manuscript. She is portrayed as coming out of Zeus’ head, and in front of Zeus stands Hephaistos holding an axe. [178]
Although no specific connections can be proved, it would be tempting to assume that Prodromos was familiar with the iconographic practice of such manuscripts, particularly since, as I argued above, Gregorios’ homilies and Pseudo-Nonnos’ commentary seem to have been the main sources of inspiration in his construction of Gobryas’ second speech. Gobryas’ reference to Zeus as “the king (basileus) of the Titans” (4.202) may reflect such a familiarity since in some of the above-mentioned manuscripts Zeus is depicted as a medieval Greek Emperor indeed. [179] Be this as it may, the literary evidence discussed so far—Prodromos’ own commentaries on Ioannes of Damaskos and Kosmas, Gregorios’ homily on Epiphany, and Pseudo-Nonnos’ commentary on the latter—indicates that in the scene of the culinary marvel prepared for Artaxanes and its rhetorical exploitation by Gobryas, Prodromos makes parodic use of elements drawn on religious literature and especially hymnography.
Such a parodic appropriation of liturgical language and imagery is not new in medieval Greek satire. We have encountered a comparable case in Psellos’ poem against the monk Iakobos. Writing also in the eleventh century, Christophoros Mytilenaios composed a diatribe against a certain Andreas, a monk who made a fortune out of the trade of allegedly sacred “relics.” Mytilenaios did not hesitate to foreground the impiety of that charlatan through a series of provocatively grotesque images. For instance, Mytilenaios says, in the hands of that rogue the martyr Nestor became literally an octopus because Andreas would endow this saint with eight legs and St Prokopios with ten hands, or St Barbara with four breasts! [180] That imposter would sell sixty teeth of St Thekla, white hair of St Ioannes Prodromos, and, on top of that, he would boast that he just brought from Judaea the beards of the babies that had been killed by Herodes! Through such blasphemous dealings that monk overthrew the natural order of things. He endowed an old woman “with sixty teeth,” a young man with white hair, and little babies with bushy beards! [181] Clearly, by depicting the reversal of sanctioned order through a series of comic images that themselves subvert linguistic and pragmatic normalcy, Mytilenaios’ poem, albeit more graphic and explicit than Prodromos’ parody, shares with the latter a comparable playful attitude to established religious and verbal discourses.

Staging miracles in Rhodanthe and Dosikles: the clown as a poet and the narrator as a jester

Gobryas’ display of his mastery of rhetoric is followed by another demonstration of “conspicuous virtuosity” (4.214–316). This time, the main performer is not Gobryas, but a clown with the marked name Satyrion. The aim of this show is, however, the same: to intimidate the foreign envoy. Satyrion pretends to commit suicide. He thrusts a sword into his neck and torrents of blood begin to flow from the alleged wound. Satyrion’s apparent death upsets gullible Artaxanes, who almost bursts into tears. Gobryas rounds off the scene of the clown’s apparent death with a miraculous “virtuosity”: he touches Satyrion and “resurrects” him in the name of “greatest” Mistylos. Then, the “resurrected” Satyrion takes the lyre and sings a hymn extolling the power of his master Mistylos. After the song, Satyrion is treated to a big cup of wine and finally is dismissed (ἀπαλλάσεται τοῦ συμποσίου; 4.315–316).
Like the previous scene of Gobryas’ banquet, this second act is also replete with multilayered allusions to both literary tradition and Byzantine reality. Satyrion’s original model can be identified in the figure of his namesake counterpart in Lucian’s Symposium. [182] There is no doubt that Prodromos was inspired for his own Satyrion by the hero of his favorite ancient Greek satirist. [183] The similarities between the two Satyrions go beyond their common name. They both are dwarfs, have shaven heads, and perform the role of jesters during banquets.
Additional literary echoes can also be detected, I argue, in Satyrion’s Lucianic name. Satyros is the name of one of the most instrumental secondary characters in Achilleus Tatios’ novel, and Prodromos may also have had him in mind when he constructed the figure and the deceptive performance of his own Satyrion. The associations between Prodromos’ Satyrion and Achilleus Tatios’ Satyros are not confined to their names. In Achilleus Tatios, Satyros is responsible for the contrivance of the spectacular apparent death of Leukippe in the third book of the novel. [184] His “miracle” was based on dramatic art, not unlike the performance of the Prodromic Satyrion, which is similarly described in terms of “dramatic acting (hupokrisis)” (τῇ δραματικῇ ξυνδοκοῦν ὑποκρίσει; 4.312).
Prodromos’ Satyrion seems to have been modeled, therefore, upon both Lucian’s homonymous clown and Tatios’ character. In this respect, it is clear that Satyrion exemplifies a literary convention that can be traced back at least as far as Xenophon’s Symposium, in which Philippos, a jester (gelōtopoios), undertakes to entertain the dinner guests at Kallias’ banquet. [185] Philippos’ reputation as the literary symposiastic gelōtopoios par excellence is attested, as we have seen, in Gregorios Pardos’ twelfth-century commentary on Hermogenes, where Pardos explicitly refers to Philippos as an example of the potentially comic character of symposia. [186]
The playful contrast between life and death exhibited at Satyrion’s performance enables the reinscription in Prodromos’ novel of a satyric view of life—in Tzetzes’ understanding of the term saturikos—a tendency, that is, toward black humor. Although this idiosyncratic humorous mood is also manifested in other texts of Prodromos, [187] here it reaches its culmination: Satyrion, the performer of his own apparent death, is described with an expression taken most probably from Gregorios of Nazianzos [188] as “unsmiling Hades” (῞ᾼδης ἀμειδής 4.225). However, Satyrion’s role as a clown is exactly the opposite. As suggested by his characterization as a jester (γελωτοποιός) that is preserved in the margin annotations in three manuscripts of the novel, he is supposed to produce smiles and laughter. [189] His “resurrection,” performed by Gobryas in a pompous style recalling, I believe, Christ’s miracles, [190] demonstrates how Satyrion can defeat, or indeed, ridicule Hades with the help of Gobryas and of omnipotent Mistylos. The possible parodic allusions of Satyrion’s performance to the conventional vocabulary and imagery of miracles reinforces the satirical references of Gobryas’ banquet to sanctioned topoi of the hymnography on the Nativity.
An earlier example of a comparable carnivalesque reversal of established religious and ecclesiastical order is worth mentioning here. Vita Basilii reports the exceptionally blasphemous incident of a parodied liturgy performed by the retinue of “Gryllos,” the opponent of the Patriarch Ignatios. The blasphemous subversion of religious order performed by Gryllos and his entourage is compared to the indecorous antics of the Satyrs, the followers of Dionysos. The whole scene is depicted in marked dramatic terms that highlight the theatricality of the event. His followers are characterized as mimes who caused a lot of laughter among the spectators. Their mock liturgy was performed to the accompaniment of citharas. At another time, Gryllos and his “theater and chorus and order of Satyrs” (μετὰ ... πάσης αὐτοῦ τῆς σκηνῆς τε καὶ σατυρικῆς χορείας) parodied a religious procession. Dressed up as a bishop, Gryllos rode an ass while being followed by his fellow fake bishops who were playing the citharas, singing obscene songs, playing the cymbals, and dancing “in the manner of Pan and the Satyrs” (Πανικῶς τε καὶ Σατυρικῶς σκιρτῶντες καὶ κυμβαλίζοντες). [191]
In his discussion of the forms of chronotope in the novel, Bakhtin observes that the image of the clown introduces into a text several “intervalic chronotopes,” among which he singles out the chronotope of theater. [192] In Rhodanthe and Dosikles, Satyrion’s performance assumes a similar function. As we have seen, parallel performative intervals are interjected elsewhere in Prodromos’ novel as well as in Eugeneianos’ Drosilla and Charikles. In the latter, such scenes take place twice. First, a series of romantic and comic songs, which were sung on a merry occasion that coincided with the beginning of the love story between the two protagonists, are reported in book three of Eugeneianos’ novel (3.135–322). Two of these songs are performed to the accompaniment of a lyre by a talented musician who bears the emblematic name Barbition. [193] The feast in this part of Eugeneianos’ novel culminates in a graceful dancing performance in which Drosilla surpasses all the other women in beauty. Second, the reunion of Drosilla and Charikles is celebrated with a banquet that is accompanied by the grotesque dance of old Baryllis. I shall return to this performance later in this Chapter. For now, the key point is that, as opposed to Rhodanthe and Dosikles, in Eugeneianos’ novel the dramatic immediacy of the first performative interval is considerably reduced due to its reinscription in Charikles’ analeptic narrative to his friend Kleandros.
In Prodromos’ novel, Satyrion’s performance reflects the role of actual comic entertainers at the Byzantine court or the “salons” of the Constantinopolitan aristocracy, to which Prodromos’ original audience most probably belonged. Particularly elucidating in this respect is a text by another Komnenian novelist, Konstantinos Manasses. In his unusually realistic Ekphrasis of a Small Man (῎Εκφρασις ἀνθρώπου μικροῦ), Manasses describes in detail a dwarf from Chios who was staying at the palace in Constantinople. This ekphrasis is an important document that allows us a glimpse at a less glamorous aspect of twelfth-century Byzantine court through the eyes of a member of the contemporary literary elite. Being exceptionally short, this midget attracted everybody’s attention in the palace. His physical defect, Manasses tells us, was a source of great amusement for the aristocrats who frequented the court: [194]
τοιοῦτόν τινα μικρὸν ἀνθρωπίσκον καὶ ἡ νῆσος ἤνεγκε Χῖος καὶ ἠνέχθη τὸ τέρας ἐπὶ τὴν Βύζαντος καὶ διῆγεν ἐν βασιλείοις. Καὶ ἦν ὄχλος περὶ αὐτό, συντρεχόντων καὶ ἱστορούντων καὶ ἀπολαμβανόντων ἐν μέσῳ καὶ θελόντων αὐτῷ προσλαλεῖν. Καὶ ἦν τὸ ἀνθρώπιον ἐν μέσοις ἐκείνοις ὡς γίννος μικρὸς ἐν ἵπποις εὐγενέσιν ᾿Αρραβικοῖς· οὕτω δαιμόνιος ἦν ἡ βραχύτης, οὕτως ἀλλοφυὴς ἡ μικρότης. ᾿Εκεῖ τοῦτο κἀγὼ κατεῖδον καὶ ἐξιστόρησα· καὶ εἶχεν οὕτω τὰ κατ’ αὐτό· περιέκειτο μὲν ἐπίκρανον ἱκανῶς ἔχον μεγέθους καὶ τηλικοῦτον ὡς ὑπὲρ ἥμισυ σχεδὸν τῆς ὅλης αὐτῷ τοῦ σώματος ἀναβάσεως· καὶ ἦν, ὡς ἔοικε, τοῦτο τὸ δώρημά τινος τῶν εὐγενεστέρων ἀστέϊσμα. [195]
Such a little midget the island of Chios too had produced, and this marvel of a man had been brought to the palace. And he would be surrounded by a whole throng of people who were rushing there, asking questions and listening and wishing to talk to him. And amid them, the dwarf was like a small mule among noble Arabian horses—so eerie was his shortness, so unnatural his small size. And I, too, saw him there once and asked him questions. And he looked like this: he was wearing a very big cap, almost larger than half his whole height, a gift, it seems, that was the joke of one of the aristocrats.
Manasses’ information may be complemented by other twelfth-century evidence about mimes and performers in Constantinople. Again, Theodoros Prodromos himself is an important source. In his treatise On Those Who, in View of Poverty, Insult Providence (Περὶ τοὺς διὰ πενίαν βλασφημοῦντας τὴν Πρόνοιαν), Theodoros Prodromos provides some rather neglected information that reinforces my view that his Satyrion in Rhodanthe and Dosikles was modeled upon actual twelfth-century performers. In this composition, Theodoros Prodromos reports the complaints of those who blame Providence (Pronoia) for the inequalities in life. Among other examples, he mentions the case of ugly men who are married to beautiful women. His description of those “lucky” men recalls exactly the appearance of Satyrion in his novel:
καὶ ὁ μὲν ἄμβλωμα τῆς φύσεως ὢν καὶ τῶν ᾿Εμπεδοκλείων τεράτων ἀσχημονέστερος, τὸ εἶδος αἰσχρός, ἀσβόλου πλήρης τὸ πρόσωπον, ὁποίους ἐν ταῖς σκηναῖς ἀνθρωπίσκους εἰσάγομεν διασκευάζοντες Αἰθιοπικώτερον, ῥυσσὸς τὸ δέρμα ... [196]
And the man, although being a kind of freak of nature and uglier than the Empedoklean monsters, hideous in appearance, his face full of soot like the midgets that we put on stage and make up like black people, with wrinkled skin ...
This parallel from Theodoros Prodromos’ treatise is important not only because it offers a valuable piece of information about performers in twelfth-century Byzantium but also because it shows that this author often indulges in a creative intertextual dialogue with his own work.
Balsamon and Zonaras provide additional information about Byzantine performers. Commenting on Canon 51 of the Trullan Council, Zonaras notes disapprovingly:
οἳ [sc. οἱ μῖμοι] ποτὲ μὲν ᾿Αραβίτας μιμούμενοι, ποτὲ δὲ ᾿Αρμενίους, ποτὲ δὲ δούλους, ἐνίοτε δὲ ἕτερ’ ἄττα τοῖς ἐπὶ κόρρης ῥαπίσμασι καὶ ψοφήμασι, γέλωτας ἀπρεπεῖς κινοῦσι, καὶ οἷον ἐκβακχεύουσι τοὺς ἀφελεστέρους, ἢ ἀπροσεκτοτέρους. [197]
The mummers sometimes imitate Arabs, other times Armenians or slaves, now and then other things, slapping and striking each other on the head, thus causing indecorous laughter among their audience and leading the more naïve and less cautious of their spectators into a bacchic excitement.
Zonaras, whose overall attitude toward profane spectacles is critical, discerns two kinds of performers: the honored and the ignominious. The former were those who performed at the Emperor’s court; the latter, those who put on shows in the context of popular festivals and were involved in immodest entertainment. Balsamon makes a similar distinction between the decent musicians (thumelikoi), such as those who performed at weddings, and the mimes who imitated slaves, soldiers, or women. [198] Especially illuminating is Niketas Choniates’ information about the Emperor Isaak III’s sumptuous banquets, which often culminated in despicable debaucheries. Isaak’s meals were always sumptuous and, not rarely, accompanied by performances of singers and mimes. [199]
In his treatise On Simulation, an occasionally daring critique of established social and moral conventions, Eustathios of Thessalonike recounts the grotesque show of a purported holy fool that he once witnessed in Constantinople. Eustathios’ description is couched in a vocabulary that recalls Prodromos’ disparaging description of those “lucky” men who are unjustly favored by Pronoia:
ἐγένετό τις ἡσυχαστικῆς ἀρετῆς ἀνὴρ ἐπίτριπτος ἐραστής, ... σιδήρῳ μεσολαβούμενος σφίγγοντι, σπῖλος ὅλος ἐκεῖνος, γλοιὸς μυσαρός, ῥύπος ἀνέκπλυτος ... καὶ κρεάτων οἰκείων ἀπέλευσιν ἐσοφίζετο, τῇ τοῦ σιδήρου δῆθεν παρατρίψει διαβιβρωσκομένων εἰς βάθος ... Καὶ τὸ σόφισμα μιαρὸν τῷ ὄντι, καὶ οὐ μόνον πραγματικῶς, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῷ τρόπῳ τοιῷδε ὄντι. Πνεύμονα ζωϊκὸν ἢ καὶ ἧπαρ ἀπολαμβάνων, καὶ εἰς λεπτότητα κατακνίζων χλοώδη, ὁποῖα τὰ μεμασημένα, καὶ προσπλάττων, ὅποι παρείκοι τοῦ σιδήρου, εἰσεδέχετο τοὺς ὁμιλητάς· καὶ μετὰ βραχεῖαν λαλιὰν διεσείετο ἠρέμα, ὡς εἴπερ ὠδυνᾶτο δακνόμενος. Εἶτα τὴν χεῖρα καθιεὶς ἔνδον, ὅποι τὸν πνεύμονα ἐκεῖνον κατέχρισε, καὶ κνησάμενος ἐξῆγε τὴν ἐξάγιστον ὑπουργὸν εἰς φῶς, καὶ ἐπιφωνήσας ὀδυνηρῶς τὸ τὰ κρέατά μου, διετίνασσεν αὐτὴν πρὸς τέχνην. [200]
There was a rascal, a purported lover of monastic virtue, who was wearing an iron vest applied tightly around his body ... he was covered all over with filth, some loathsome, sticky, oily stuff, unwashed dirt ... and he would contrive the extraction of his own flesh, which was supposed to have corroded due to its rubbing against the iron. And his trick was filthy indeed, not only in terms of its realism but also in terms of the manner of its execution. He would get animal lungs or livers and, after chopping them into small greenish-yellow pieces, as though they had been chewed, and applying them to those parts of his body that were left uncovered, he would thus receive his audience. And after a brief discussion with them, he would begin shaking his body mildly as though he was in pain. And then, putting his hand inside, at the spot where he had smeared the animal organ, and scratching it, he would take out the abominable servant [of his ruse] and, groaning in pain “my flesh!,” he would artfully shake it asunder.
The alleged holy fool’s show is mentioned by Eustathios as a telling example of dramatic simulation (hupokrisis), in the double sense of the term in the original text: hypocrisy and theatrical performance. This, Eustathios notes, was a comic incident (γελοῖον φάκτον). The charlatan presented himself in the guise of angelic virtue (τῷ κατ’ ἀρετὴν σχηματισμῷ τὴν ἀρχὴν μὲν ἄγγελος) but his purported miraculous show was a sophistic contrivance (sophisma)—the effect of his deceiving art (technē). The performance of this holy fool is based on a similar play upon life, death, and rebirth as Satyrion’s show in Prodromos and Leukippe’s Scheintod in Tatios. The difference is that the holy fool’s “miraculous” survival was attributed to his alleged Christian faith whereas Satyrion’s resurrection to the omnipotence of his master Mistylos and that of Leukippe to the expertise of one of her friends in theatrical effects.
Eustathios’ description, not unlike Manasses’ ekphrasis, betrays a keen interest in naturalistic details reflecting a broader tendency in the literature of the era. In addition to the literary evidence and despite the almost unanimous objection of the Church bigots, art, too, attests to the popularity of performers in Byzantium. [201] Although Prodromos shares the realism expressed in such pictorial and literary depictions of performers, in his novel, he refines it through the filters of a complex literary allusiveness. After his alleged miraculous resurrection, Satyrion continues the display of his virtuosity with the performance of a hymn extolling the power and the feats of Mistylos. To my mind, the form and the imagery of this song recall features of religious hymnography and occasional court poetry. In his role as a poet and singer, Satyrion can also be seen as a persona of Theodoros Prodromos himself, one of the most prolific composers of occasional court poetry in twelfth-century Byzantium. Satyrion’s song consists of thirteen five-line strophes, each one beginning with the same address to the Sun (῞Ηλιε, διφρεῦ ἅρματος πυροτρόχου; 4.243). Significantly, this invocation recalls the sun imagery that was often employed in medieval Greek literature in association with the Emperor. [202]
The allusions of Satyrion’s hymn to the traditional encomiastic vocabulary of court literature are by no means exhausted with this topos. Satyrion’s reference to the protection that Zeus provides to Mistylos (4.246–247) recalls, I suggest, similar images in Byzantine literature where the Emperor is presented as an “imitation of God.” Theodoros Prodromos himself offers many interesting examples of the use of this motif in his ceremonial court poetry. [203] Satyrion’s emphasis on Mistylos’ control over the universe (4.263–287) might have had similar connotations for the original audience of the novel. [204] At the same time, the paradoxa that Satyrion employs in his attempt to foreground the omnipotence of his master echo the rhetorical images employed by Gobryas in his discussion with Artaxanes and share with them the same parodic allusiveness to religious and court poetry. [205]
Satyrion’s show introduces into the novel a performative chronotope that alludes both to the context of actual medieval Greek occasional poetry and to aspects of contemporary court life. This chronotope supplements and reinforces the theatricality of the culinary marvel performed before Artaxanes’ eyes. The scene of the banquet as a whole can thus be viewed as a comic reenactment of aspects of Byzantine political life.
One of the most effective means of expression of public political life in Byzantium was indeed theatricality. By and large, the medieval Greek polity was organized as a “theater state.” [206] Here the homonymous concept that Clifford Geertz introduced in his discussion of premodern Bali is useful. [207] The element that may allow this comparison between Byzantium and the conspicuously different Balinese culture, or even other premodern empires such as China or Japan, is precisely the emphasis on theatricality that pervaded almost every aspect of Byzantine public life. Geertz discusses the intricate ways in which political Balinese rituals reproduce transcendental cosmological values in performative terms. The same may be argued for Byzantine political life. In Byzantium, political power was often displayed in marked performative contexts that reenacted established premises about divine and universal order in homological symbolic terms.
The operation of such homological associations between the performance of political rituals and broader cosmological ideas in Byzantium is documented in De Cerimoniis. In his preface, the author of the treatise notes that by describing how the imperial power is governed by rhythmical order, he also depicts the harmonious manner in which God moves the whole universe. [208] Similar symbolic homologies are comically reenacted in Satyrion’s song by means of his appropriation of metaphorical topoi that, as discussed above, are often employed in Byzantine encomiastic court poetry to associate the Emperor and his authority with God, the sun, or other cosmic powers.
Satyrion’s comic display of his virtuosity is followed by an extensive ekphrasis of a valuable cup that Artaxanes was using during the banquet: as Artaxanes sleeps the cup falls from his hand and breaks. Despite its more static character, this ekphrasis reproduces the convivial atmosphere of Satyrion’s performance. Theodoros Prodromos describes the depiction of Dionysos and his reveling companions on the cup in detail: dance (4.357–362; 397–400); possible references to mime (4.365–377); and sensual or even obscene gestures (4.401; 403–405; cf. 4.375).
These main constituents of this scene may also allude to real examples of art [209] as well as to specific literary works. Prodromos’ ekphrasis recalls the vintage scene from the beginning of the second book of Longos’ novel. Like the portrayal of Dionysos and his entourage on the cup in Rhodanthe and Dosikles, Longos’ description, which is portrayed as “a feast of Dionysos,” [210] is invested with a relatively explicit sensuality. Daphnis is compared to Dionysos and Chloe to a Baccha, while the men who tease her are portrayed as Satyrs. All the women are enticed by Daphnis’ beauty and some of them do not even hesitate to kiss him. [211] In Rhodanthe and Dosikles, the dramatic mode of Satyrion’s comic performance is translated into the more abstract and explicit descriptive mode of an ekphrasis of a parallel lighthearted quality. [212] The ekphrasis of the cup concludes the intervalic chronotope of Satyrion’s performance and highlights its Dionysiac, that is, its dramatic and comic dimensions. [213]
The banquet at Mistylos’ court is one of the most complex scenes in Rhodanthe and Dosikles and certainly the richest comic incident in the whole tradition of the Greek romantic novel, as this is represented by the fully preserved examples of the genre. Two important aspects of the comic effectiveness of this banquet emerge: first, an innovative exploitation of grotesque images; second, an allusive parodic appropriation of the discourse both of established literary tradition and of the protocol of Byzantine court rituals. Parody functions here on three levels. First, it is engaged in a creative dialogue with literature: rhetoric, occasional court poetry, hymnography, and homilies. Through Prodromos’ parodic manipulation, aspects of all these genres are introduced into the novel and enhance its interdiscursivity.
Parody assumes additional satirical functions, both internal intertextual and extratextual. On a second metanarrative level, these satirical dimensions undermine the expectations of the fictional characters involved in the scene of this banquet, that is, Artaxanes and Gobryas. In the end, Gobryas’ masterful reenactment of court protocol proves to be ineffective: in the war against Bryaxes, Mistylos (Gobryas’ master) is defeated and kills himself with a knife (6.89–105), thus performing a spectacular reversal of Satyrion’s pretended suicide. Although capable of contriving impressive court ceremonies and fake resurrections, Mistylos’ alleged omnipotence was not sufficient to save him from his own ultimate defeat and death. [214] On the other hand, the spectacular banquet exposes the gullibility of Artaxanes, whose ridiculed reaction reflects on his people in general, despite their eventual victory.
Third, parodic and satirical elements here may allude to real events and peoples whose identity cannot be recovered with certainty any more. Nevertheless, a few observations should be made with respect to this issue. Hunger has suggested that Pissa, the city of Bryaxes, may be Pisa, the Italian city, which had been granted trading privileges by Alexios I and Ioannes II in 1111 and 1137, respectively. [215] I find Hunger’s interpretation persuasive, especially in the light of the new terminus ante quem for the composition of this novel recently and most convincingly established by Elizabeth Jeffreys. [216] The hypothesis of the identification of the Prodromic Pissans with the people of this Italian city is further corroborated, I suggest, by the fact that the latter seem to have enjoyed a special reputation among the Byzantines as particularly skilled in warfare at sea. As a matter of fact, the Pissans of the novel defeat Mistylos’ army at a naval battle. In her history, Anna Komnene narrates how her father, Alexios I, defeated the Pisans at a naval battle near the island of Rhodes in 1099. Alexios, who was aware of the Pisans’ skills at the sea, feared a sea battle with them. He decided, therefore, to supply the prows of his ships with metal heads of lions and other animals in order to frighten his enemies. These heads had been prepared in such a way that from their mouths Greek fire was hurled against the Italian enemies, referred to by Anna Komnene as barbarians. [217] The emphasis she places on the terrifying effect of medieval Greek technology recalls the “conspicuous virtuosity” displayed at Gobryas’ banquet and its effect on Artaxanes. [218] But who are Mistylos’ people—the barbarians who seem to have “assimilated” Byzantine court ceremonial so well? By contrast to the people of Pissa, nothing in their description is marked enough to permit specific identification. The similarities of their court ceremonies to Byzantine court rituals indicate that they may represent a playful alter ego of the Byzantines themselves and, more specifically, of the Emperor and his court. This hypothesis does not seem implausible given Theodoros Prodromos’ well-documented general satirical predisposition.
The multivalent ludic—and possibly self-reflexive—overtones of this episode derive mainly from its construction as a ritualistic performance. Like secular or sacred ritual performances, the spectacles staged in the context of the ceremonial reception of Artaxanes take place in a privileged temporal and spatial frame. This context, to the extent that it transgresses everyday boundaries, is demarcated by a playful liminality. Generally speaking, liminal occasions or phenomena allow the use of carnivalesque and occasionally subversive metalanguages that reverse, criticize, or satirize established norms of behavior and communication. It is circumstantial and communicative ambiguity that invests liminality with such disruptive potential. In the case of Gobryas’ and Satyrion’s performances, the ironic ambiguity (amphoteroglōssia) makes possible the coexistence and the parodic exploitation of a number of sanctioned discourses, both religious and secular. [219] In other words, if ritual in general may also be seen in terms of performance, [220] Satyrion’s and Gobryas’ performances should also be viewed in terms of ritual liminality and poetics that allow the parodic intersection of several genre and discursive boundaries.

“Dancing like a Baccha”: the carnivalesque and the role of providence in Drosilla and Charikles

In Eugeneianos’ novel the comic banquet takes place in the context of the happy reunion of the two lovers. In the seventh book of the novel, Baryllis, [221] the old woman who in the previous book had offered accommodation to the storm-tossed Drosilla, throws a party to celebrate the reunion of the heroine with Charikles. Kleandros, the friend of the two protagonists, is invited too. After eating and drinking, Baryllis decides to stand up and dance in honor of Dionysos, the god who protected the young lovers throughout their adventures and eventually saved them. This is the first time she dances after the death of her son. From that point on, the decent dinner is transformed into a grotesque performative event. Baryllis takes two napkins in her hands and begins to dance “in the manner of a Baccha.” She accompanies her dance with a song that is as melodic as the noise of someone who blows her nose. [222] She is not talented in dancing either; she stumbles and falls on the floor; she tries to stand up, but in vain. The only result of her efforts is to break wind—not once, nor twice, but three times! Nobody helps her stand up because everybody bursts into laughter. In the end, Kleandros decides to help old Baryllis because he is afraid that she will either break her head or soil herself (7.265–315).
Here the old woman unintentionally assumes the role of a jester and acquires specific grotesque features parallel to those of Satyrion and Nausikrates in Theodoros Prodromos’ novel (2.109–110; 3.19–42). In Drosilla and Charikles, though, the grotesque elements reach a culmination unprecedented in the tradition of the genre. The manuscript tradition of Eugeneianos’ novel indicates that some medieval readers might have found specific details of this scene particularly embarrassing. [223]
To be sure, Eugeneianos’ old woman—like a number of her contemporary western European fictional fellow old ladies— [224] bears some stereotypical traces of ancient comic characters. Drunkenness, for one, is a recurrent satirical topos of the stereotypical image of older women in Attic comedy where they occasionally frequent taverns and are served wine by women of the same age group. Theopompos even dedicated a whole comedy to this topic (Kapelides). [225] Excessive revelry, drinking, and dancing were normally considered forms of immoral behavior in Byzantium and gave rise to severe criticism and satirical abuse. I have already discussed the presence of this theme in Psellos’ parodied canon against the monk Iakobos, in Niketas Eugeneianos’ Anacharsis, and in Niketas Choniates’ reproachful account of the Emperor Isaak’s lavish dinner parties. The same topic is exploited satirically in a later text, the mid-fifteenth-century Comedy of (S)Katablattas. The target of this “comedy” is an allegedly degenerate teacher accused of harassing his students and leading an overall immoral life. Among other things, he is castigated for his improper dancing at dinner parties. Here is an example of (S)Katablattas’ parodic portrait: [226]
Who would not be delighted with your habitual behavior at dinner parties? I mean all the things that your natural skills allow you to exhibit, and above all the talented plasticity of your body ... Your marvelous twists at the banquets and the leaps and the swift shaking of the body, the rotations and the cyclical curvings, and the rapid freedom of your hands and legs ... and especially when you drink a lot of wine and Dionysos himself is your fellow dancer and bacchic companion. And when, stumbling out of drunkenness, you sing most of the songs out of tune and your marvelous gestures correspond to the cacophony of your singing, even then, your companions at the Dionysiac revelry, your fellow satyrs, scream “oua” at you.
The depiction of the satirized “(S)Katavlattas” in this passage recalls most of the comic topoi that Eugeneianos employs in his portrayal of the intoxicated Baryllis: Dionysiac imagery, stumbling out of drunkenness, cacophony. In Eugeneianos’ case, however, the function of these conventional motifs is not satirical but merely humorous.
Breaking wind is also a frequent comic motif, often linked with incipient defecation—a detail that appears in Eugeneianos too, albeit in a looser form. [227] Comic caricatures of old women had also inspired Theodoros Prodromos’ satire against a lecherous old hag. Drawing on ancient comedy as well as on epigrams, Prodromos depicts the target of his satire in most derogatory terms, employing a number of morally marked terms in his description. This old woman is a lustful and “wild Mainad,” a Baccha, who, despite her old age, does not hesitate to put on excessive quantities of make-up and rouge in order to attract young men. Clearly, the atmosphere of Prodromos’ poem throughout is Aristophanic. [228]
The determination of possible direct or indirect sources of inspiration is always a precarious task, and the absolute adherence to particular “origins” runs the risk of neglecting the possibility of other influences. Attic comedy may have been just one of Eugeneianos’ many possible sources of inspiration. Baryllis, the first old woman in the Greek novel after antiquity, can also be viewed as the grotesque alter ego of the exotic old woman in the Aithiopika who performs a scene of necromancy, [229] or of the old woman in Iamblichos’ novel who lives in a hut and helps the protagonists to escape their pursuers. [230] Kallimachos’ Hekale—a character quite popular in twelfth-century Byzantium—may very well have been another literary predecessor of Eugeneianos’ Baryllis. [231] In this respect, it does not seem to be a mere coincidence that Baryllis, like the heroine of Kallimachos, stands out as a paragon of hospitality despite her poverty and her mourning for her dead son. [232]
Approached from another perspective, Baryllis’ performance should be viewed as a grotesque reenactment of the conviviality of the happy feast that marked the first meeting of the two protagonists. The ludic atmosphere of that occasion, which Charikles describes to his friend Kleandros in the third book of the novel, is eloquently indicated in the manuscript tradition of the text. A margin comment on verse 135 of the third book reads: συμποσιαστικὸν ἀστέϊσμα (‘a banquet joke’). [233] Charikles employs similar terms to characterize the merriment of the event. The romantic stories narrated by the participants in the feast, he says, were hilarious (gelōtopoioi) and the songs cheerful (3.128–129). Some of the songs that Charikles recalls include traditional comic topoi that cause Kleandros to burst into laughter (3.196–197). Often the comic effectiveness of these songs, which draw largely also on the tradition of erotic epigrams, results from a boldness that may be compared with the moral liberty of Basilakes’ rhetorical exercises.
One of the examples that Charikles recounts to Kleandros—also singled out as a “banquet joke” (συμποσιαστικὸν ἀστέϊσμα) in the manuscript tradition—has as its topic a lecherous “old virgin” whose licentiousness is described in Dionysiac terms (3.207–215). The old woman is characterized as a Maenad—a word traditionally charged with particular immoral connotations when used in erotic contexts. [234] Her lust is depicted with most daring images: she indulges in innumerable libidinous adventures since, thanks to her age, she has no fear of becoming pregnant “even if she sleeps with countless men or with Herakles himself, or with the legendary lecherous Priapos” (3.210–212). Although more audacious, this song recalls some of the motifs that Theodoros Prodromos employs in his own satire of the libidinous old woman discussed above. The use of similar epithets and the conclusion of both poems with the venomous reminder of the imminent death that is approaching and eventually will snatch away the lecherous old woman who acts like a young girl, indicate some possible intertextual connections between these two texts. In Eugeneianos’ novel, after this grotesque song, whose unfettered idiosyncratic sensuality is protected, we may assume, by its playful genre allusions to the sanctioned literary tradition of erotic epigrams and comedy, Charikles recounts the performances of other, more decorous lyrics that also draw on epigrams as well as on idyllic poetry. And in the dancing that followed, Drosilla’s graceful performance marked the initiation of the love story between the two young protagonists as Baryllis’ dance marks now their happy reunion.
Apart from any possible internal or external intertextual echoes, Baryllis embodies also a Dionysiac and carnivalesque spirit not unattested elsewhere in twelfth-century Byzantium. The characterization of her dance as that of a Baccha (7.277: ὄρχησιν ὠρχήσατο βακχικωτέραν) recalls both representations of dancing Maenads in medieval Greek art and survivals in Byzantium of pagan customs clearly associated with Dionysiac festivities. [235] For instance, relics of the pagan habit of the invocation of Dionysos’ name at vintage time are documented in Byzantium. Canon 62 of the Trullan Council had forbidden this pagan ritual as well as other ancient customs such as the celebration of the Kalends, Bota, Brumalia, the feast of the first of March, and the dancing of women in public. [236]
Balsamon also offers useful information about carnival rituals of a distinctive performative character in twelfth-century Byzantium. He reports that at Christmas and on the holiday of Theophania priests wore masks and dressed up as soldiers, monks, or animals. [237] The same pagan custom was observed on October 25, the feast day of Saints Notaries (St Markianos and St Martyrios), until it was abolished by the Patriarch Loukas Chrysoberges (1157–1169/70). [238] In the eleventh century, Christophoros Mytilenaios had composed a 231–verse poem dedicated to the holiday of Saints Notaries, which was celebrated with a carnival in which students and most probably teachers also took part. [239] The participants were disguised as women or dressed with either exceptionally costly or worn clothes. [240] In his account, Mytilenaios highlights the comic and satirical character of their festivities, which was the source of “immoderate laughter” among the spectators. Mytilenaios’ response to these festivities is the typical one of high-brow Constantinopolitan intellectuals and he vehemently castigates the parents for letting their children participate in such contemptible activities. [241] Significant for the reconstruction of popular festivals in the same period is also the information that Michael Psellos provides in his description of the feast of Agathe. The celebrations included dancing and singing, where improvisation seemed to play a pivotal role. [242] Psellos’ account gives the impression that old women assumed the functions of leaders and main initiators (of younger women?) into the traditional festivities accompanying that feast. [243]
In addition, therefore, to its possible connections with the stereotypical vocabulary with which Byzantine authors refer to indecorous reversals of established norms of behavior in satirical, festive, or even rebellious contexts, the realism of Baryllis’ comic performance introduces elements of Byzantine popular culture and everyday life in Drosilla and Charikles. [244] This realistic background contributes to the rhetorical effect of apheleia and euteleia of the whole work. The comic figure of old Baryllis reflects a revived interest in the ordinary and naturalistic that, as noted earlier, is also encountered in other works of twelfth-century Byzantine literature.
To a considerable extent, the comic realism of Baryllis’ dance is based on the contrast between city (astu) and village (chōrion), which had been also employed by Eugeneianos in his portrayal of Kallidemos. Baryllis’ native space had been delineated as a chōrion already at the description of the urbane heroine’s entrance into its margins (6.189–199). As in the incident of Drosilla’s encounter with Kallidemos, in Baryllis’ case, too, this antithesis can be translated into a contrast between the ideologically charged categories of “the center” and “the margins,” of “in” and “out,” or between the more concrete spatial classes “Constantinople” and “outer provinces” (exō chōrai). [245] In Drosilla’s dispute with Kallidemos, this bipolarity was further developed into the contrast “civilized versus uncivilized” (astikos-chōritikos; 6.297–299).
Ethnographic studies of different societies show that the “outside” is often associated with the “abnormal.” [246] Similar associations may be also detected in Baryllis’ case. Her performance is described in exceptionally loose terms not only because she is old and therefore subject to relatively lenient criteria of decorum, [247] but also because she lives “outside” the astu, that is, in a space where daring things may be more easily tolerated. Eugeneianos might have expressed here an attitude toward villagers that is parallel to the condescension, or even snobbery, toward the “outer provinces” (exō chōrai) attested in the work of Balsamon, to cite an instance. In his commentary precisely on the aforementioned Canon 62 of the Council in Trullo that forbade the public dances of women and the observance of profane rituals, Balsamon notes most contemptuously: “such a strange feast [is celebrated] in the outer provinces [exō chōrai] according to an old bad habit.” [248]
The grotesque performance of the old and hilariously “exotic” Baryllis—who, perhaps not insignificantly, lives in the exō chōrai—could have been received by Eugeneianos’ aristocratic audience—who can very well be identified as members of the social and intellectual elite of the capital—in terms of a pleasant euteles interval in the course of the main narrative of his novel. With her, as with Satyrion in Rodanthe and Dosikles, the “intervalic” chronotope of dramatic performance and the carnivalesque is introduced into Drosilla and Charikles. The narrative sequence is temporarily broken, as everyday life is temporarily suspended, or reversed, by the provocative rituals performed during carnival. [249] What dominates here is not the words, but the drama, the theatrical aspect and the performativity of the text, a text that, as noted, was probably intended for a comparable performative function—recitation—in the context of an aristocratic Constantinopolitan rhetorical theater.
Baryllis’ festive dinner recalls the banquet in the second book of Prodromos’ novel and the sinister associations of Nausikrates’ dance. The mirth caused by her performance is followed first by the announcement of the death of Kleandros’ beloved and, in the end, by the subsequent death of Kleandros himself during another gloomy banquet one day after the happy feast. To the extent that it is connected with extreme grief, Baryllis’ excessive conviviality activates a subtle rhetorical and conceptual amphoteroglōssia. Comedy, in other words, coexists with tragedy in Eugeneianos’ novel exactly as allegorical allusiveness coexists with the grotesque.
This ambivalence does not invalidate the happy end of the reunion of the protagonists, although it diminishes its joviality. Such convergence of extreme joy and extreme grief in the final phase of the development of the story is unique in the tradition of the Greek novel. [250] I suggest that this ambivalence owes something to the philosophical discussions of the concept of pronoia (providence) in twelfth-century Byzantium. Pronoia is the subject of a number of works of Isaak Komnenos and Theodoros Prodromos. Both these authors contend that evil does not undermine, but rather serves the purposes of divine Providence. The ambivalent character of Pronoia is eloquently delineated in Prodromos’ two treatises on the subject, which could be read as a pair of kataskeuē and anaskeuē of the same topic. In his work On Those Who, in View of Poverty, Insult Providence (Περὶ τοὺς διὰ πενίαν βλασφημοῦντας τὴν Πρόνοιαν), Prodromos refutes the arguments of those people who blame the personified Pronoia for inequality in wealth. Disparities, he says, give rhythm to life, precisely as the exchange of low- and high-pitched tones creates harmony in music. [251] Different is his treatment of the same issue in his Complaining Verses on Providence (Σχετλιαστικοὶ [στίχοι] εἰς τὴν Πρόνοιαν). Here, Prodromos accepts that divine Pronoia is to be credited with the wondrous order in the universe, but he cannot help expressing his complaints against her. However, in the end he piously abides by the Christian dogma that God’s will remains unfathomable to the human mind and admits that all his negative comments about Pronoia are ultimately wrong. [252]
Isaak Komnenos’ treatises on Providence offer a more systematic approach to the subject. His overall discussion is highly influenced by Proklos to the extent that the lost original Greek text of the latter’s works on the same topic has been reconstructed on the basis of Komnenos’ essays. [253] In the sixth chapter of his Ten Questions on Providence, Isaak explores precisely the same problem that Prodromos addresses in his own discussions of Pronoia. To the question, “If there is Providence and, as a result, there must be impartiality, why is there inequality in human life, and evil people enjoy a good life whereas the good ones lead a miserable life?” Isaak Komnenos offers a relatively lengthy response. Pronoia, he argues, gives each man exactly what he strives for. To a righteous man she offers what is conducive to virtue. To a bad man who cares only for wealth, power, and good health, Pronoia bestows precisely these gifts. And exactly like farmers who do not moan if they do not get the same things that seamen, for instance, gain, righteous people do not complain for not being offered mundane goods since they care only for virtue. “The lack of ostensible goods,” Isaak Komnenos continues, “helps worthy men in their efforts to attain virtue,” because it corroborates their contempt for such material things. By functioning in such a manner, Pronoia proves that virtue remains admirable even in misfortunes whereas vice is repulsive even in circumstances of apparent happiness. As a result, Pronoia teaches men to strive for the good and avoid immorality. At other times, Pronoia allots different things to virtuous people because she wants them to develop different skills. For instance, she separates some from their families and friends; others she makes stay at home. But all those who are noble, Isaak argues, realize that this is a plan that Pronoia employs in order to test their endurance, and they confront any circumstances with modesty. [254]
It is not unlikely that Eugeneianos’ innovative treatment of the comic banquet that celebrates the reunion of the two protagonists but is followed by the announcement of Kalligone’s death and Kleandros’ own death during another gloomy banquet draws on such mid-twelfth-century Greek philosophical and literary discourses on the role of pronoia. In Drosilla and Charikles, the word pronoia always refers to the providence of a god. [255] Pronoia is first used in the fake lament of Chrysilla, Charikles’ barbarian mistress, for her dead husband. Rather ironically, Chrysilla observes that it was the pronoia of the Olympians that sent her husband to the cold halls of Pluto (5.188). But in all the other cases, pronoia is indirectly (7.185) or directly (7.208; 8.147) associated with the fate of the two protagonists.
Although the reference to divine Pronoia as the pivotal force of the development of the story might also reflect an older convention of the genre, [256] its use by Eugeneianos in Drosilla and Charikles could have evoked for him and his audience some Christian connotations. This possibility is indicated by the consistent use of this word with the noun theos (god) but also, and more significantly, by its correlation with a phrase of clear Christian associations (“who can separate those whom god has united?”; οὓς γὰρ θεὸς συνῆψε, τίς διασπάσοι;) that is used in the novel twice. The first time, this phrase, which recalls a passage from the New Testament that is still used at the wedding ceremony, [257] is employed in connection with the anticipated happy union of Kleandros and Kalligone (3.12); the second time, it appears in association with the happy reunion of the two protagonists (7.264). At first sight, the negative upshot of the erotic story of the first couple undermines god’s reliability and may suggest a parodic appropriation of the Christian connotations of this phrase. [258] Nevertheless, this impression is counterbalanced by the happy end of the adventures of the main couple. In the end, the god turns out to be trustworthy, and any possible parodic echoes are subject to the wise orchestration of a divine Pronoia that is not different from the Pronoia discussed by Isaak Komnenos and Theodoros Prodromos.
Eugeneianos’ own pronoia as the author of the story is evinced by the careful insertion of Baryllis’ comic dinner party just after the happy reunion of the two protagonists and before the bad news about Kalligone. The ominous associations of Baryllis’ grotesque dance and her rather excessive conviviality are highlighted by her sinister allusion to the evidently Christian idea that in the past had nurtured Kalligone’s and Kleandros’ vain hopes for a happy union: οὓς γὰρ θεὸς συνῆψε, τίς διασπάσοι; (“who can separate those whom god has united?”; 7.264). [259] After saying this, old Baryllis sets the table and performs her dance:
ἔφησε ταῦτα καὶ τράπεζαν εἰς μέσον
τέθεικεν “ὑμῖν συγχαρήσομαι, ξένοι
τὴν σήμερον,” λέγουσα, “συμπάρεστέ μοι
καὶ συγχορεύσω τῷ θεῷ Διονύσῳ
παθόντας οἰκτρὰ προσφυῶς ἡνωκότι.
She said this and set the table in the middle of the room.
“I’ll join you in your joy, my friends,
today,” she said, “and you join me,
and I’ll dance with you in honor of the god Dionysos,
who aptly united you after your pitiable sufferings.”
• • •
The simultaneous flourishing of satire and the novel in twelfth-century Byzantium may be viewed in terms of the distinctive reinvigoration in the Komnenian era of certain modes of expression as well as patterns of thought and sociocultural behavior favoring individuality, realism, genre and discursive inclusiveness, and literary experimentation. Comic modulations—such as satirical and parodic elements—are among the most characteristic features of the twelfth-century Greek novel, especially of both Rhodanthe and Dosikles and Drosilla and Charikles. These modulations assume an explicit and grotesque character, conducive to the differentiation of the Komnenian novel from the ancient Greek examples of the genre.
As a rule, the comic incidents occur in the performative context of festive banquets, which should be viewed as allusions to analogous performative occasions in twelfth-century Byzantium. Albeit largely drawing from literary examples of the ancient Greek past—notably Aristophanes and Lucian—the comic modulations constitute the most effective manifestation of an intricate Aktualisierungsversuch in the Komnenian novels because they allow the manipulation of parodic, satirical, or grotesque references to Byzantine reality. As a result, a rhetorical euteleia unprecedented in the tradition of the genre is introduced into the Komnenian novels.
In Rhodanthe and Dosikles, parody is the main comic modulation: literary genres such as liturgical and court poetry are parodied, and contemporary court ceremonial becomes the object of a subtle satire. In Drosilla and Charikles, comic modulations assume an exceptionally grotesque character, which contributes to the amphoteroglōssia of the entire novel by highlighting the role of pronoia (providence) in the narrated story.
Invested with distinctive performative potential, comic incidents in the Komnenian novels suspend the linearity of the narration. At the same time, the theatricality of such scenes and their carnivalesque spirit may create liminal spaces within the story where subversive metalanguages are employed to reverse or satirize established codes of conduct and communication. In this manner, comic modulations contribute both to the genre flexibility and discursive inclusiveness of the whole narrative.


[ back ] 1. On the depiction of such spectacles in Byzantine art, cf. Grabar 1960:142.
[ back ] 2. For a general study of public entertainment in Byzantium and its negative treatment by the Church, see Mango 1981; also Angold 1995:457–460. For a discussion of the attitude of the early Church toward the dance of women in particular, see Webb 1997. The information provided by the canonists Zonaras and Balsamon attest to the same criticism of such spectacles on the part of the official Church in the twelfth century; discussion of this issue follows in this Chapter.
[ back ] 3. On this, see Jauss 1970, where an emphasis on the inclusion of comic elements in allegorical works; cf. also Gurevich 1988. The latter offers a stimulating discussion of the coexistence of general opposite ideological and discursive principles in medieval cultures. In general, Gurevich proposes a more balanced approach to medieval laughter and humor than Bakhtin (see also Gurevich 1997; cf. Bakhtin 1984a). Curtius has also memorably discussed the coexistence of the serious and the comic in medieval European literature (Curtius 1953:417–435). For a general discussion of the multilayered aspects of laughter in medieval Europe, see also Le Goff 1989.
[ back ] 4. Horna 1904:4.89–94. Synesios of Kyrene offers a noteworthy parallel. In one of his letters, he describes an adventure during a travel that, he says, combined comic and tragic elements (Garzya 1979:25.10).
[ back ] 5. For a useful analysis of some humorous aspects in Achilleus Tatios, see Anderson 1982:23–32. For an interesting, but rather exaggerated, reading of this novel as a parody of the genre, see Durham 1938; cf. also Heiserman 1977:118–130. In his interesting discussion of the ancient Greek novel, Fusillo discusses some general topoi and themes in examples of the genre that, as he believes, may be traced back to the New Comedy, without, though, systematically exploring specific intertextual allusions (Fusillo 1989:43–55).
[ back ] 6. Aspects of comic modulations I explored above in my discussion of the manipulation of rhetorical conventions in Eugeneianos’ novel (see pp. 68–79).
[ back ] 7. Occasionally the term “comic” may carry some emotionally charged, critical associations, in contrast to the rather “innocent” and unmarked term “humorous” (Eco 1984:7–8). In general, my use of “comic” does not presuppose such an understanding of this term. For some general terminological and conceptual distinctions, see also Jauss 1976; Rose 1993:54–90, where a more systematic discussion and further bibliography.
[ back ] 8. Τὴν ᾿Αριστοφάνους ἐζηλωκὼς κωμῳδίαν ἤρξατο αὐτὸς λέγειν πάνυ ἀστείως καὶ κωμῳδικῶς (8.9.1).
[ back ] 9. Parallels from other examples of medieval Greek literature abound. See, for instance, Psellos’ poem Against a Sabbaita Monk (in Westerink 1992:269.310; 321); also the later (mid-fifteenth-century) Κωμῳδία τοῦ (Σ)Καταβλαττᾶ (Canivet, P. and N. Oikonomidès 1982/3). Κωμῳδία is also the term used to describe Prodromos’ Battle of Cats and Mice by the first editor of the work, Aristoboulos Apostolios (Hunger 1968:74–76). The playful character of satire is sometimes expressed with the term παίγνιον (e.g. in Psellos’ aforementioned poem, v. 314; cf. Hesseling and Pernot 1910:I.10–11; 15). In his poem Against a Sabbaita Monk, Psellos employs also the word σκῶμμα to refer to bitter satirical criticisms (Westerink 1992:269.308). For the comic connotations of this word in ancient comedy, mainly in Aristophanes, cf. Edwards 1991, especially 168–179, where further bibliography and discussion of relative terminology; see also more recently Somerstein 2000.
[ back ] 10. Prodromos: 3.33; 224; 4.131; 133; 377; Eugeneianos: 3.123; 128; 197; 7.279; 286; 294; 296; 313. Examples from other works of medieval Greek literature are innumerable; cf., for instance, Podestà 1947:7.71–74; Hesseling and Pernot 1910:I.15.
[ back ] 11. Drosilla and Charikles 4.312.
[ back ] 12. Prodromos:7.23; 8.371; 494. For examples of the use of these terms in the general meaning of bitter irony, see Prodromos 5.195; 293; Eugeneianos 5.340; cf. Westerink 1992:269.317. For a discussion of similar terminology in the ancient Greek novel and an approach to laughter in the same genre as a nonverbal form of communication, see Liviabella-Furiani 2000.
[ back ] 13. For an interesting study of humor from an anthropological point of view, see Apte 1985, especially 108–148; cf. Apte 1992. See also Driessen 1997, which is an interesting self-reflexive approach to the anthropological study of humor. Radcliffe-Brown 1940 remains fundamental. Douglas 1968 provided a landmark in modern anthropological approaches to humor. Important comparative material of different crosscultural abuses of humor may be found in Davies 1990.
[ back ] 14. “Sociolects” refer to established social discourses (Rifatterre 1990:passim).
[ back ] 15. “Liminal” describes the middle phase of a rite of passage (see van Gennep 1960). My use of this term here endorses Victor Turner’s connection of liminal phenomena with behaviors that may be undermining and “antistructural” (see Turner 1969; 1974a; 1977; 1982). It should be noted that, according to Turner, liminality only rarely results in a radical overthrow of sociocultural norms. In the same vein, Bakhtin’s analyses presuppose that carnivalesque modes of expression undermine but do not necessarily abolish hegemonic cultural discourses (see especially Bakhtin 1984a; for an ethnographic application of the Bakhtinian concept of the carnivalesque in a modern context, cf. Gilmore 1995; see also Turner’s analysis in Turner 1987:123–138).
[ back ] 16. The term “boundary” is deliberately employed here as an allusion to Lotman’s insightful discussion of this concept. See my analysis of the idea of boundary in connection with the twelfth-century revival of the genre of the novel in Chapter One.
[ back ] 17. PG 31.961C.
[ back ] 18. On Virginity 63.3; Klemes, Paidagogos; on the Fathers’ views on laughter, see the brief but informative discussion in Adkin 1985. See also Kazhdan and Constable 1982:62.
[ back ] 19. A comprehensive study of Byzantine comic literature remains an important desideratum. For some general and, unfortunately, outdated surveys of Byzantine humor, see Tozer 1881; Soyter 1928; Kyriakis 1973; and Baldwin 1982. Especially Kyriakis’s article should be read with caution. For a more recent overview of Byzantine humor, see Garland 1990b. Haldon’s interesting article on general aspects of medieval Greek humor came to my attention at the very last phase of the preparation of my book (Haldon 2002); on some aspects of humor in Hellenistic epigrams, cf. Giangrande 1975. Romano’s recent collection and translation of a number of medieval Greek satires is a noteworthy contribution to the study of the topic (Romano 1999).
[ back ] 20. Koster 1975:25–27.
[ back ] 21. ᾿Αγρῶν δὲ κώμαις ἐκτελουμένη τότε,/κώμοις παρ’ αὐτοῖς καὶ πότοις Διονύσου/κωμῳδίας ἔσχηκε κλῆσιν εὐλόγως (Cramer 1836:3.338.8–10; [Koster 1975:90.117–119]).
[ back ] 22. Cramer 1836:3.336.21–337.4 (Koster 1975:87.78–87).
[ back ] 23. Cramer 1836:3.340–343 (Koster 1975: XXIb).
[ back ] 24. ῞Οσον δὲ τοῦ γέλωτος ἦν καὶ σκωμμάτων,/κωμῳδίαν ἔθεντο τὴν κλῆσιν φέρειν (Cramer 1836:3.336.7–8 [Koster 1975:87.63–64]; cf. Cramer 1836:3.338.2 [Koster 1975:89.111]).
[ back ] 25. ῾Ο κωμικὸς δέ πως γελῶν κωμῳδίαις,/ἅρπαγά τινα, καὶ κακοῦργον καὶ φθόρον,/τὸ λοιπὸν ἡδραίωσεν εἰς εὐκοσμίαν; Cramer 1836:3.336.13–15 (Koster 1975:87.69–71).
[ back ] 26. Cramer 1836:3.335.29; 336.3.
[ back ] 27. Cramer 1836:3.338.4. Cf. Eustathios of Thessalonike’s description of satyr drama as a combination of serious and hilarious elements (σπουδαιογελοῖον); see next page.
[ back ] 28. Ποιητικῶν μέλλουσιν ἄρχεσθαι λόγων,/χρεὼν διδάσκειν πρῶτα τὰς διαιρέσεις·/οὕτω γὰρ εὐσύνοπτον ἔσται τοῖς νέοις/καὶ δὴ τὸ λοιπὸν ἐγκαταρκτέον λέγειν./ποιητικὸν γίνωσκε σύ, γένος, νέε,/πολλὰς τομὰς φέρων καὶ διαιρέσεις (Cramer 1836:334.6–10).
[ back ] 29. ... νῦν μὲν τὴν χρωματικὴν ᾄδω ... νῦν δὲ τὴν ἁρμονικὴν ἁρμόττομαι καὶ ἅπαν γένος βαρβίτων ἀνάπτομαι, ἐποποιητικόν, τραγικόν, κωμικόν, σατυρικόν (Gautier 1972:158.16–19).
[ back ] 30. See Papademetriou 1969. For a discussion of this genre, see Polemis 1995; also Browning 1973.
[ back ] 31. Garzya 1971:110–136. Basilakes informs us that he had composed four satires: ᾿Ονοθρίαμβος, Στύππαξ ἢ Παραδεισοπλαστία, Στεφανῖται, and Ταλαντοῦχος ῾Ερμῆς (Garzya 1971:105–109). In his references to these works, Basilakes uses the terms “comic” and “satyric” interchangeably (Garzya 1971:101–102: εἰς τὸ κωμικὸν τοῦ λόγου ἐξεκυλίσθην; 113: τῆς ἐμῆς κωμικῆς; 131: τῶν ἐμῶν σατυρικῶν). It is worth noting that Basilakes connects the satirical character of his compositions to contemporary reality: ὅτι καὶ γελωτοποιὰ τὰ τότε δρώμενα ἔτυχον (Garzya 1971:102–103; cf. also Garzya 1969:64).
[ back ] 32. Original text in Tafel 1832:89.35–54.
[ back ] 33. See the discussion of asteiotēs above in Chapter Two, pp. 68–79.
[ back ] 34. Hunger 1968:61–63.
[ back ] 35. Romano 1974:27–31.
[ back ] 36. Baldwin 1984a; 1984b. Beaton has convincingly argued that Timarion dates from the last years of Alexios I’s reign (Beaton 1996b).
[ back ] 37. Romano 1974:44.22; Romano 1974:35–36. Cf. Akropolites’ contemptuous descriptions of Timarion as a συνταγμάτιον (Romano 1974:43.13), ἄκαιρος δραματουργία (Romano 1974:44.19), ληρῳδία (Romano 1974:44.20).
[ back ] 38. Romano 1974:44.20–39.
[ back ] 39. Twelfth-century canonists condemned indecorous laughter; see notes 2 and 18 above and the discussion below in this Chapter.
[ back ] 40. For a reading of this work as a parody, see Alexiou 1982/3.
[ back ] 41. Anastasi dates Philopatris to the first years of the second half of the eleventh century and reads it as a political pamphlet against the opponents of the Emperor Isaak Komnenos (1057–1059); see Anastasi 1968:34. Different is Romano’s opinion, who prefers to view it as a work of the twelfth century (Romano 1974:25n1).
[ back ] 42. Podestà 1945; 1947; Du Theil 1810:109–150.
[ back ] 43. Hunger 1968:51–65. For the use of parody and metaphoric imagery in this work, see more recently Cresci 2001.
[ back ] 44. Chrestides 1984:78–92; 107–109. Eugeneianos’ authorship has been disputed by Kazhdan, who, however, agrees with Chrestides’ identification of Kamateros as the target of the satire (Kazhdan 1985). Although the authorship of the text remains open, Chrestides’ not unconvincing argumentation could have been further corroborated if it had taken into account the only other occurrence of comic elements in Eugeneianos’ known work—that is, the scene of Baryllis’ dance in his novel Drosilla and Charikles.
[ back ] 45. The authorship of these poems has been the subject of many debates. For a discussion of the issue, see Alexiou 1986:1–4; 32–35, where it is rightly suggested that Theodoros Prodromos may well have been the author of these poems. Eideneier, the latest editor of the poems, does not share this opinion and places emphasis on the oral characteristics of the poems, without proposing a convincing alternative (Eideneier 1991). On the relation between Theodoros Prodromos and Ptochoprodromos, cf. also Kazhdan and Franklin 1984:87–114; as well as Beaton 1987.
[ back ] 46. For these dimensions of Ptocoprodromos, see Alexiou 1986:16–20. The same scholar discusses the possible sociopolitical allusions of the poems in her new study on Ptochoprodromos (Alexiou 2002b:127–148, especially 139–148, and forth.). On these poems, see also Beaton 1987.
[ back ] 47. On this aspect of the Ptochoprodromic poems, see Alexiou 1999.
[ back ] 48. For the interaction between parody and novel or antiromance, see Dane 1988:149–172, where the helpful idea of “the anti-poetics of the novel” and Fielding’s relation to Cervantes are explored; see also the more detailed analysis of the interconnections between satire and the novel in eighteenth-century England in Paulson 1967 and Seidel 1979 (on Cervantes especially, see 60–94). On the same issues in different periods, cf. Dentith 2000:55–95; Palmeri 1990. The first systematic discussions of the interrelations between satire and the novel are to be credited to Bakhtin; see, for instance, Bakhtin 1981:158–224; 301–331; 1984a:101–180; 1984b:112–121. For satire’s genre elusiveness, cf. Guilhamet 1987, especially 1–17. Despite his biased Anglocentric perspective, Guilhamet offers an interesting discussion of satire’s nature as a literary mode rather than genre.
[ back ] 49. See above p. 232.
[ back ] 50. Walz 7.1344–1345.
[ back ] 51. It is because of such flexibility that satire, I contend, escapes rigid genre classifications. This is why I find congenial those approaches that view satire as a literary mode rather than genre; see previous page, n48.
[ back ] 52. Romano 1974:44.26.
[ back ] 53. On the contrary, sumposion as a sociocultural institution of ancient Greece has become the subject of many systematic studies. See Vetta 1983; also Murray 1994; Smidt-Padel 1992; Davidson 1997:43–49; and passim. For symposiastic images, see among numerous studies Lissarrague 1990; Yatromanolakis 2001 and forth. On food in literature in general, cf. Wilkins 1996 (on ancient Greek and modern European literature); Wilkins 2000 (on ancient Greek comedy); Gowers 1993 (on Roman literature); Biasin 1993 (on modernist fiction, with an emphasis on the Italian novel).
[ back ] 54. Athenaios 13.575 (trans. Gulick). Athenaios’ information that this tale inspired a number of pictures should be taken seriously. We know, for instance, that the love stories of Ninos and Semiramis and of Metiochos and Parthenope were indeed depicted on the mosaics of the “House of the Man of Letters” in Antioch-on-the-Orontes (see Levi 1944).
[ back ] 55. Athenaios 1.576.
[ back ] 56. On this motif in later oriental literature, see Rohde 1914:49–55. For the possible impact of Persian romantic literature on European romances, see Pecoraro 1982. Pizzi 1892 remains a useful study of comparable motifs in Oriental and medieval Western European fiction.
[ back ] 57. Tatios 1.5.
[ back ] 58. The myth of Daphne is used also in Makrembolites, but in another context (8.18).
[ back ] 59. Kleitophon persuades himself that he should overcome his hesitations since even a god, Apollo, was not ashamed to chase his beloved (1.5.7). The turmoil in Kleitophon’s conscience is portrayed as a fight between erōs and sōphrosunē. Although recalling Makrembolites’ depiction of Eros and Sophrosyne in Hysmine and Hysminias, this metaphoric antithesis in Tatios is not further developed into a structuring narrative axis: κἂν εἰς σωφροσύνην τις ἑαυτὸν νουθετῇ, τῷ παραδείγματι πρὸς τὴν μίμησιν ἐρεθίζεται μάλισθ’ ὅταν ἐκ τοῦ κρείττονος ᾖ τὸ παράδειγμα (1.5.6).
[ back ] 60. Tatios 2.1.
[ back ] 61. In his description of the power of wine, Achilleus Tatios identifies it with Dionysos and presents it as a collaborator of Eros: Eros and Dionysos, he says, unite in seizing a man’s soul. ῎Ερως δὲ καὶ Διόνυσος, δύο βίαιοι θεοί, ψυχὴν κατασχόντες, ἐκμαίνουσιν εἰς ἀναισχυντίαν, ὁ μὲν κάων αὐτὴν τῷ συνήθει πυρί, ὁ δὲ τὸν οἶνον ὑπέκκαυμα φέρων· οἶνος γὰρ ἔρωτος τροφή. ῎Ηδη δὲ καὶ αὐτὴ περιεργότερον εἰς ἐμὲ βλέπειν ἐθρασύνετο (2.3.3). Clearly, this passage, too, indicates some fascination with allegorical modes of expression and certainly with personification. For similar images, see e.g. fragments 24, 24a of Manasses’ novel. Cf. also the footnote 59 in this Chapter and my discussion of allegory in Chapter Three.
[ back ] 62. Tatios 5.13.
[ back ] 63. Tatios 1.9.
[ back ] 64. On these Platonic echoes in Tatios’ description of love, see above Chapter Three, n245. For other examples of banquets in the ancient Greek novel, see, for instance, Chariton 4.5.7; Tatios 2.9; 2.33.1; 7.4; Heliodoros 4.16; 5.16.
[ back ] 65. For some aspects of this motif in Makrembolites in relation to Tatios, see also Conca 1994b:94–95.
[ back ] 66. On Hysmine’s audacity, see the comments in Alexiou 1977:32. On morality in the Byzantine novel in general, see Garland 1990a; cf. also Laiou 1981:249–250; 260. On the theme of the abduction of women in twelfth-century fiction and especially in Digenes Akrites, see Laiou 1993:198–218, where also a few comments on Hysmine’s role (218); on the same theme, see also Burton 2000. On the ideal of temperance in the Byzantine novel, see my discussion of sōphrosunē in Chapter Three.
[ back ] 67. There are no less than seventeen banquets in Makrembolites’ novel:1.6–11; 2.12–13; 3.5 (this is a banquet that Hysminias dreams of!); 3.10–4.1; 5.9–12; 6.1–4; 6.15; 8.4; 8.8 (the last two are the barbarians’ licentious banquets; on these see the discussion below); 8.19–21; 9.3–4; 9.7–10; 9.16–21; 10.7–8; 10.16–17; 11.2–16; 11.19.
[ back ] 68. For formalization in ritual, see, for instance, Tambiah 1985:128. For an influential but rather biased discussion of this characteristic of ritual, cf. Bloch 1974. For an approach to ritual formalization in terms of “ritual poetics,” see Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2003b (especially 32–34).
[ back ] 69. Wirth 2000:170–181. In his own description of the same event, William of Tyre prefers to highlight the glorious spectacles and the demonstration of royal power and wealth that marked that event (William of Tyre 1948:450–451).
[ back ] 70. Occasionally it is also an unexpected event that disturbs the ritual order of banquets in Makrembolites. In book six, the banquet that follows the inauspicious sacrifice that Sosthenes and Panthia offer to Zeus for the future marriage of their daughter is exceptionally poor and sad: Τράπεζα παρ’ ἡμῖν αὐτοσχέδιος τὸ δωμάτιον, τὰ δὲ περὶ τροφὰς καὶ πόσεις ἀφιλότιμα καὶ λίαν ἀνέορτα (6.15.1).
[ back ] 71. Le Goff has also stressed the symbolic value of the theme of food in medieval European literature. In medieval fiction, he observes, sociocultural distinctions as well as important moments in the narrative are often marked by means of special alimentary codes (Le Goff 1982).
[ back ] 72. Bakhtin remarks that the notion of the grotesque encompasses ideas of death, birth, and rebirth: “The grotesque image reflects a phenomenon in transformation, an as yet unfinished metamorphosis, of death and birth, growth and becoming. For in this image we find both poles of transformation, the old and the new, the dying and the procreating, the beginning and the end of the metamorphosis” (Bakhtin 1984a:24, and passim). In contrast to Hysmine and Hysminias, Prodromos’ and Eugeneianos’ novels exemplify this ambivalence of the grotesque; see my analysis below in this Chapter.
[ back ] 73. For the textual tradition of the text, see Henrichs’ introduction to his edition (Henrichs 1972). Henrichs associates this text with religious rituals. For alternative readings of the same novel, cf. Jones 1980 and Winkler 1980.
[ back ] 74. This category is represented, for instance, by the Lucianic fictions A True Story and Loukios or the Ass. It seems that, at least as far its fragments allow us to see, Iolaos, too, bears significant characteristics of the picaresque novel (see Parsons 1974; cf. Merkelbah 1973, where the case is put forward that this novel parodies mystery initiation rites).
[ back ] 75. Gregorios of Nyssa had already commented on the importance of moderation in food and drink for the accomplishment of sōphrosunē in his speech On Virginity (Cavarnos 1952:329.14–22). For excessive drinking as a feature of the barbarians, cf. also Eugeneianos 1.162–165.
[ back ] 76. Bakhtin 1984a:283.
[ back ] 77. See, for instance, Longos 4.38; Xenophon of Ephesos 5.13.4–5.
[ back ] 78. Tatios 8.5.
[ back ] 79. Tatios 8.16.
[ back ] 80. See Lindberg 1977:225–226.
[ back ] 81. The original text in Van der Valk 1971–1987: I.588.
[ back ] 82. For the relation between euteles and apheles, see Hermogenes’ De Ideis, Rabe 1913:324–325. For the comic associations of euteles, see above Chapter Two.
[ back ] 83. Walz 7.1343; 1346–1347; in his discussion of “Socratic symposia,” Hermogenes refers to Plato and Xenophon but he does not mention Philippos; Rabe 1913:454.20–25. See also my discussion of the figure of Satyrion below in this Chapter.
[ back ] 84. First banquet: 2.88–118; 3.1–43; second banquet: 4.111–417.
[ back ] 85. The first banquet is described as δεῖπνον Γλαύκωνος in manuscripts H, L,V; the second one is marked out as δεῖπνον Γωβρύου καὶ ᾿Αρταξάνου in H, L, V, and as δεῖπνον Γωβρύου πρὸς ᾿Αρταξάνην in U.
[ back ] 86. Zonaras and Balsamon note that sometimes women avoided the feasts held on religious occasions out of fear for the indecent conduct of the men who participated in them (Kazhdan and Epstein 1985:83). As a matter of fact, in Prodromos’ novel, Rhodanthe’s hesitation proves well justified. Dryas, the young son of their host, meets Rhodanthe at the dinner; he falls in love with her and behaves rather provocatively (2.141–154).
[ back ] 87. ῾Υπὸ Στρατοκλεῖ λιγυρῶς κεκραγότες,/ᾠδῆς ἀγαθῆς ἐμμελῶς ἡγουμένῳ; 2.107–108. Marcovich notes that there is a lacuna just before these lines. According to him, the lost verses must have contained the transition from the dinner to the symposium; cf. the reasonable refutation of this view in Conca 1994a:97n5.
[ back ] 88. ῎Αλλοις ἐραστὸν τῆς μελῳδίας πλέον/τὸ στρέμμα καὶ λύγισμα τοῦ Ναυσικράτους,/ἀγροικικὸν μὲν (τί γὰρ ἢ Ναυσικράτους;)/οὐ μὴν γελώτων ἐνδεὲς καὶ χαρίτων; 2.115–118.
[ back ] 89. Heliodoros 4.17.
[ back ] 90. Van der Valk 1971–1987: IV.267.19–268.2; cf. Koukoules 1950:2.371; 374.
[ back ] 91. Although Digenes’ death is rather antiheroic, the story of his almost epic feats had been established as a model of ultimate heroism already in the twelfth century, as Ptochoprodromos’ references to him indicate (Hesseling and Pernot 1910: III.189; 544). MacAlister’s interpretation of Nausikrates’ reaction as an echo of the behavior of Christian martyrs (MacAlister 1996:134) does not explain the emphatic use in his response of an unequivocally profane diction and imagery rather incompatible with Christian ideals: Ναυσικράτης δὲ καρτερῶς, ἀδακρύτως/εἰς τὴν σφαγὴν ἔσπευδεν ὥσπερ εἰς πότον,/τοῦτο προειπὼν ἱλαρᾷ τῇ καρδίᾳ·/”χαίροιτε, δεῖπνα καὶ πότοι τῶν ἐν βίῳ/καὶ τῶν τραπεζῶν ἡ πολυτεστέρα·/πλησθεὶς γὰρ ὑμῶν εἰς κόρον Ναυσικράτης/κάτεισιν εἰς ᾍδος ἄσμενος δόμον,/καὶ τῶν θανόντων ἱστορήσει τοὺς πότους,/ ἐπόψεται δὲ νεκρικὰς εὐωχίας” (1.485–493). In addition to learned allusions to pagan descriptions, the reference to the feasts of the dead may also echo popular approaches to death. In this respect, modern Greek folksongs offer interesting comparative material; see e.g. Zographeios Agon 1.105, no 125; Nemas 1983:418.29; 419.33; Motsios 1995:98; cf. Danforth 1982:110; Detorakes 1976:93; Roilos 1998:68–69. For symposia in the other world in antiquity, cf. Yatromanolakis 1998.
[ back ] 92. On the manipulation of this contrast in the Komnenian novel, see also below p. 295–296.
[ back ] 93. It is worth noting that in all of the four manuscripts that transmit the novel, this passage is singled out with the margin annotation Περὶ Ναυσικράτου. This demarcation may indicate that this scene was received as a potentially self-contained passage of a marked (humorous) value.
[ back ] 94. Γελᾶν, Δοσίκλεις, ἐν κακοῖς ἔπεισί μοι/... ἂν τὸ φίλτρον τῆς μέθης/οὕτω κατεκράτησε τοῦ Ναυσικράτους,/ὡς καὶ ῥοφᾶν ἐκεῖνον ἐκ τοῦ σιέλου,/οἶνον ῥοφᾶν δοκοῦντα ... (3.33–37).
[ back ] 95. MacAlister 1996:145. The crucial position of Nausikrates’ conjectured dream in the narrative has been noticed by MacAlister too, who, however, does not discuss the dynamics of the episode as a whole (MacAlister 1996). MacAlister bases her analysis not on the comic parameters of the banquet and the contrast between euteleia and heroism, but on the use of the dream motif in the Greek novel, which, as she rightly points out, is usually employed at critical moments in the development of the story. To my mind, her otherwise sensitive interpretation fails to underline the peculiar character of Nausikrates’ conjectured dream because it dissociates it from its proper context, that is, the festive atmosphere of the banquet at Glaukon’s house. It is from this context that Nausikrates’ dream takes its special form and function in the whole narrative; cf. also the discussion of Baryllis’ dance below in this Chapter.
[ back ] 96. Westerink 1992:270.1–4. For Psellos’ abusive language in this parody, see Conca 2001; on Psellos as an ironist in general, see also the penetrating discussion in Ljubarskij 2003, which came to my attention at the very last phase of the preparation of this book.
[ back ] 97. The importance of this motif for the construction of the whole poem is also indicated by its acrostichis Μέθυσον ᾿Ιάκωβον εὐρύθμως ᾄδω, Κώνστας (Westerink 1992:270). For a discussion of medieval Greek parodies of liturgical literary forms, see Metsakes 1972; also Eideneier 1977:29–55, with an emphasis on Spanos; 52–55 focus on Psellos’ parody.
[ back ] 98. Westerink 1992:275.131.
[ back ] 99. Chrestides 1984:215–216.186–194.
[ back ] 100. Chrestides 1984:564.
[ back ] 101. Chrestides 1984:922–924.
[ back ] 102. Chrestides 1984:197–198.
[ back ] 103. Chrestides 1984:1056–1062.
[ back ] 104. Van Dieten 1975:113.93–114.5; cf. Chrestides 1984:106–107.
[ back ] 105. The number of such songs is vast. See, for instance, the following so-called acritic and kleftic songs collected by Nikolaos Polites: nos 65; 70; 75; 77; cf. nos 27; 28 (Polites 1914); see also Romaios 1954:193. Although the lack of any concrete evidence regarding this tradition in twelfth-century Byzantium—with the obvious possible exception of Digenes Akrites—makes it impossible to prove any specific affinities between Prodromos’ novel and its contemporary oral epic poetry, the similarities with post-Byzantine examples of this tradition remain intriguing.
[ back ] 106. Verpeaux 1966.
[ back ] 107. For the dynamics of Byzantine court rituals in general, see Cameron 1987 and McCormick 1985. Macrides 2005 offers an interesting discussion of the interaction of secular and sacred ritual modes of communication in Byzantium by focusing on the ritual of petition.
[ back ] 108. Πάλαι μὲν ὁ Δημάρατος ὁ Κορίνθιος, ᾿Αλεξάνδρου τὸ πρῶτον ὑπὸ τὸν χρυσοῦν οὐρανίσκον ἐν τῷ Δαρείου θρόνῳ καθίσαντος, μεγάλης εἶπεν ἡδονῆς στερηθῆναι τῶν ῾Ελλήνων τοὺς τεθνηκότας πρὶν ἢ θεάσασθαι τὸν ᾿Αλέξανδρον ἐν τῷ Δαρείου θρόνῳ καθήμενον· ἐγὼ δ’ ἂν καὶ αὐτὸς οἰκειωσαίμην ἄρτι τοῦτο τὸ Δημαράτειον καὶ πολλῆς ἂν φαίην ἐστερῆσθαι τῆς ἡδονῆς τῶν ὑπό τινας ῾Ρωμαίων ἐκείνους, ὅσοι θανόντες οὐ πάρεισί γε νῦν ἰδεῖν τὸν ἑαυτῶν βασιλέα λαμπρὸν λαμπρῶς ἐνθάδε προθρονιζόμενον καὶ τὸν μέγαν τὸν Περσῶν ἀρχηγέτην αὐτῷ καλῶς ὑποποδιζόμενον. θέαμα τερπνὸν οὕτω καὶ ξένον καὶ οἷον οὐδέπω τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς τῶν ῾Ρωμαίων ἑστίασεν (Papadopoulos-Kerameus 1913:167.12–21; cf. Magdalino 1993:454; 242). It is worth noting that in this speech, Malakes refers to the sultan as Persanax, a term encountered also in Niketas Eugeneianos’ novel (Papadopoulos-Kerameus 1913:167.25). For Eugeneianos’ use of this term, cf. Kazhdan 1967:109. For Malakes’ speech, cf. Magdalino and Nelson 1982:132–135. The same information about the difference in the position of the two leaders is offered by Kinnamos: ἦρτο μὲν βῆμα λαμπρὸν καὶ δίφρος ἐπὶ πλεῖστον γῆθεν αἰρόμενος ἔκειτο, θέαμα λόγου πολλοῦ ἄξιον ... ἐφ’ οὗ καθῆστο βασιλεύς ... Κλιτζιεσθλὰν δὲ ἐπειδήπερ εἰς μέσους παρῆλθε, θάμβους ὅλος ἦν ... καθῆστο λοιπὸν ἐπὶ χαμαιζήλου τινὸς καὶ ἥκιστα ἐπὶ μετεώρου καθέδρας (Meineke 1836:205.6–206.9–10).
[ back ] 109. William 1948:380. In his description of the reception of Baldwin III by Manuel several years before this event (1159), William places again emphasis on the same detail: Manuel was seated on a throne higher than that of his guest (William 1948:278). On William’s attitude to Byzantium in general, see Davis 1973.
[ back ] 110. Odo of Deuil 1948:59. Given that Odo’s view of the Byzantines was rather hostile, his description here must be less impartial than it seems at first sight. In his own account of the same event, Kinnamos explicitly notes that the Byzantine Emperor was seated on his throne, whereas Louis was on a little stool (Meineke 1836:83.1–5).
[ back ] 111. Cf., for example, the description of “the reception” of the Saracenes in De Cerimoniis (Reiske 1829/30: II.584–585). The Greek word for “reception” that “Konstantinos” employs, that is, δοχή (Reiske 1829/30: II.583 and passim), recalls the similar term used by Prodromos in this scene: εἰσδοχή. The author of De Cerimoniis describes how the foreign envoys passed through several buildings before arriving at the dinner hall where the Emperor had prepared a feast for them. For a similar scene but in a different context, cf. Digenes Akrites G 94–99 (Jeffreys 1998a).
[ back ] 112. Hunger 1968; 1978:2.131–132; Beaton 1996a:75; cf. Kazhdan 1980. None of these scholars discusses the issue in a systematic way.
[ back ] 113. Liutprand takes great pride in the fact that he was not intimidated by the display of such technological miracles at the court of Konstantinos Porphyrogennetos. He mentions a bronze tree with bronze birds that were chirping, metal lions that were roaring, and the impressive so-called “throne of Solomon.” Liutprand, however, had already enquired about these marvels and he was not surprised (Antapodosis, Wright 1930:6.5). De Cerimoniis describes the throne and the other technological “marvels” at the Byzantine court (Reiske 1829/30: II.566–570). For the throne of Solomon and Byzantine court technology in general, see Brett 1954; for their political manipulation, see Trilling 1997.
[ back ] 114. Embassy, Wright 1930:11.
[ back ] 115. Embassy, Wright 1930:20. For Byzantine cuisine in general, see Dalby 1996:187–199; Dalby 2003 (both should occasionally be read with caution) and Kislinger 1999; for garum, see Kislinger 1999:199; Dalby 2003:68–69.
[ back ] 116. The parallel with Petronius was proposed by Hunger in Hunger 1978:2.131; see also Beaton 1996a:75.
[ back ] 117. For references to marvelous dishes in medieval Europe such as “live” birds baked inside pies, cf. Bynum 1987:61.
[ back ] 118. In his Life of St Meletios, for instance, Prodromos extols the saint’s spartan life by contrasting it to the alleged opulence of his audience. Prodromos’ enumeration of the dishes possibly enjoyed by his imagined reader takes a rather grotesque character: σὺ δέ μοι τοὺς ταὼς ἀρίθμει καὶ τὰς γεράνους καὶ τοὺς ἐκ Φάσιδος ὄρνιθας, καὶ τὸ διπλοῦν, εἰ βούλει, τῶν περδίκων γένος προστίθεσο, καὶ στενοχώρει μὲν τὰς λοπάδας, στενοχώρει δὲ τὸ ὀπτανεῖον τοῖς κρέασι, καὶ ποίκιλλέ σου τοὺς ἄρτους, καὶ διαφορὰς ἐννόει πομάτων, καὶ τοὺς πλακοῦντας ἐπὶ τούτοις πάραγε καὶ τοὺς σησαμοῦντας καὶ τὴν λοιπὴν τῶν πεμματοποιῶν φλυαρίαν καὶ τυράννει τὰ στοιχεῖα, καὶ δασμολόγει τοῖς ἐδωδίμοις καὶ πρόπινε φιλίου καὶ ἑταιρείου ... καὶ κεραυνίου κατὰ τῆς ἑαυτοῦ κεφαλῆς, καὶ ἄχρις ἐμέτου τοῖς συμπόταις ἔγχει τὸν ἄκρατον (Vasilevskii 1886:50). Clearly the whole description here recalls similar passages from the Ptochoprodromic poems, especially the ones on the poor intellectual and the satire against the monks (Hesseling and Pernot 1910: IV, III, respectively). A special interest in food is documented in the works of other twelfth-century writers and may reflect a change in the diet of the Byzantines in this period (on this, see Kazhdan and Epstein 1985:80–81, who, however, do not take into account the description of Theodoros Prodromos in his Life of St Meletios). This emphasis on food may also reflect a broader interest in everyday, profane matters; on this, see also Kazhdan 1990a. Such a concern is certainly detected, I believe, in Prodromos’ Life of St Meletios too, despite, for instance, Ljubarskij’s rather pessimistic generalizing assessment of the alleged lack of realism in the overall hagiographic production in the eleventh and the twelfth centuries (Ljubarskij 1998:7; it should be stressed that Ljubarskij does not discuss specific hagiographies).
[ back ] 119. Trans. Baldwin 1984a:75.
[ back ] 120. Tafel 1832:312.74.
[ back ] 121. Herakleides, ap. Athenaios 4.145b-c, trans. Gulick, slightly adapted here. The Persian Emperor’s dinners were famous in fifth-century Athens. For instance, Aristophanes refers to their opulence at the beginning of his Acharneis (65f). On the Persian dinners, see also Davidson 1997:284–286.
[ back ] 122. Goody 1982:142. Similar differences in the distribution and preparation of food in terms of political and social oppositions have been observed in medieval China (Goody 1982:105–114). Not unlike Byzantium, in medieval China, too, the reception of foreign dignitaries was accompanied by exceptionally rich and elaborate dinners (Schafer 1977:133) while even the day-to-day operation of the imperial kitchen occupied a large number of people, mainly women and eunuchs (Mote 1977).
[ back ] 123. Hesseling and Pernot 1910: III.290–305.
[ back ] 124. For approaches to food as a symbolic marker of sociocultural relations in modern societies, see Douglas 1982, particularly 82–124; Douglas 1984a; Douglas 1984b.
[ back ] 125. Goody 1982:141.
[ back ] 126. For an excellent analysis of the construction and negotiation of such aesthetic and cultural categories in the modern world, cf. Bourdieu 1984.
[ back ] 127. I am using the apt term introduced by Trilling in his discussion of the political manipulation of technology at the Byzantine court. The second component of this term, “virtuosity,” refers to extraordinary skills, most usually artistic, while the first component, “conspicuous,” emphasizes the public display of such skills (Trilling 1997:225).
[ back ] 128. Beaton, for example, does not view this episode in its broader context while accepting the possibility of an allusion to Cena Trimalchionis (Beaton 1996a:75). Beyond the fact that Theodoros Prodromos composed poems for ceremonial occasions at court, Beaton says, “there is probably nothing in Prodromos’ story that reflects the details of such ceremonies in the twelfth century” (Beaton 1996a:75); see however the analysis above, where I discuss descriptions of analogous ceremonial occasions at the Byzantine court by twelfth-century Greek and Western European writers. I should note that Cena Trimalchionis had a rather problematic manuscript tradition (see Smith 1975:xii–iv). The similarity, however, between Theodoros Prodromos and Petronius, enhanced perhaps also by the name of the clown—Satyrion—remains intriguing (for a discussion of the performances described in Cena Trimalchionis in terms of “dinner theater,” cf. Jones 1991). Is this similarity a mere coincidence or is it to be attributed to some oral or another, yet unidentified, common source? (On this, cf. above n117.) To the best of my knowledge, no study exists on the possible familiarity of twelfth-century Byzantine writers with specific examples of Latin literature. Salanitro’s short note on a possible echo of Horace in Eugeneianos is not very convincing, I think (Salanitro 1992). More interesting are the similarities between Eugeneianos and Plautus identified by Giusti, who prefers to attribute them to an unidentifiable common source (Giusti 1993:221–223). Nevertheless, the exchanges between Byzantines and Westerners were frequent in the twelfth century (cf. e.g. Bryer 1973; E. Jeffreys 1980). In this respect, I find it worth noting that in his monody on his brother, Nikephoros Basilakes refers explicitly to the deceased’s perfect knowledge of Latin (Pignani 1983:242, 164–166). On the knowledge of Latin in early Byzantium, see Baldwin 1985, which, however, does not discuss the situation in the twelfth century. For a recent brief discussion of this issue with an emphasis on the eleventh and twelfth centuries, see Ciggaar 2002. In this respect, the richness of Haskins 1927 remains still unsurpassed.
[ back ] 129. Doody 1997:431. See also above, n53.
[ back ] 130. Beaton argues that “the reader is presumably intended to decipher Gobryas’ words as a punning allusion to worms (σκώληκες), to which the bodies of fighting men could indeed be said to ‘give birth’—if they are killed” (Beaton 1996a:74).
[ back ] 131. Hesychios s.v. In antiquity, the Phoenicians enjoyed a special reputation as particularly licentious; on this, see Henrichs 1972:19–23, where, however, Hesychios’ information is not taken into account.
[ back ] 132. I do not think it is fortuitous that the same word appears also in Longos’ novel in the context of the violent assault on the hero by Gnathon (an agressive homosexual). Fortunately, Daphnis escapes the wanton Gnathon and runs away as a puppy (σκύλαξ; 4.12.3). Gnathon’s desire and attack are described as violations of nature, another element that somehow recalls the paradoxical atmosphere of Prodromos’ scene. That Prodromos was familiar and influenced by Longos is beyond doubt. Suffice it to point out that the name of the Pissan leader, Βρυάξης, is almost identical with the name of the Methymnian general in Longos, Βρύαξις. For possible sexual allusions of a similar sort in Ptochoprodromos, cf. Hesseling and Pernot 1910:I.172–189; III 111–116, and the discussion in Alexiou 2002b:129–139.
[ back ] 133. For an insightful discussion of humor’s metanarrative potential, see Riffaterre 1990:29–52.
[ back ] 134. Rabe 1913:453–454. For another comparable allusion to such banquets in Prodromos’ novel, see above p. 246.
[ back ] 135. Τὸ δὲ προγύμνασμα τοῦτο [sc. ἀνασκευή] πᾶσαν ἐν ἑαυτῷ περιέχει τὴν τῆς τέχνης ἰσχὺν (Rabe 1926:10.18–19); Aphthonios expresses the same view for kataskeuē: ἡ γυμνασία δὲ αὕτη πᾶσαν περιέχει τὴν τῆς τέχνης ἰσχύν (Rabe 1926:6–7).
[ back ] 136. In his discussion of thesis, Hermogenes speaks of how one can “refute” (ἀνατρέπειν) and “confirm” (κατασκευάζειν) the topic of a thesis (Rabe 1913:26).
[ back ] 137. The topic of a thesis is usually expressed with the formula “should one ...?” (e.g. εἰ γαμητέον, εἰ ἀθλητέον, εἰ γεωργητέον; see Rabe 1913:25; Rabe 1926:42).
[ back ] 138. Rabe 1913:25; Rabe 1926:41.15.
[ back ] 139. Patillon 1997:83.121.9–12.
[ back ] 140. Rabe 1913:25; for a satirical appropriation of the conventional formulation of the rhetorical argumentation of a thesis, cf. Prodromos satire Amarantos or the Love Affairs of an Old Man (du Theil 1810:123–124).
[ back ] 141. I think it is not without significance for our understanding of the rhetorical character of the debate in Prodromos’ novel that the physiological example of women’s production of milk after delivery is mentioned by Aristotle in his Rhetoric as an example of true syllogism (1357b.15–16: τέτοκεν, ὅτι γάλα ἔχει). This example is discussed also in Stephanos’ twelfth-century commentary on Aristotle’s Rhetoric. The syllogism is formulated here as following: αὔτη τέτοκε· γάλα γὰρ ἔχει· τὸ γάλα ἔχειν σημεῖόν ἐστι τοῦ τετοκέναι (Rabe 1896:264, 247.19–20). I find it highly probable that here Theodoros Prodromos is making fun not only of this kind of syllogism in general but also of this specific example. An intriguing piece of evidence for Theodoros Prodromos’ involvement with the study of Aristotle is offered by another twelfth-century commentary: there, Theodoros Ptochoprodromos is mentioned as the author of a commentary on Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics (on this commentary, cf. MacAlister 1990:211; MacAlister, however, does not mention the specific passage from Stephanos’ commentary I am discussing here; on the identity of Ptochoprodromos see above in this Chapter). The short treatise Περὶ τοῦ μεγάλου καὶ τοῦ μικροῦ is another example of Theodoros Prodromos’ familiarity with Aristotle; see above p. 28n9.
[ back ] 142. Rabe 1913:25.
[ back ] 143. Rabe 1926:41.15; Patillon 1997:83.121.7–9.
[ back ] 144. Rabe 1926:13–14.
[ back ] 145. Walz 1.242 (in this case Walz’s edition offers a better version of the text than Patillon’s edition: θέσις ἐστί πρᾶγμα λογικὴν ἀμφισβήτησιν ἐπιδεχόμενον; Patillon 1997:82.120.13–14).
[ back ] 146. ᾿Ανασκευαστέον δὲ τὰ μήτε λίαν σαφῆ μήτε ἀδύνατα παντελῶς, ἀλλ’ ὅσα μέσην ἔχει τὴν τάξιν; Rabe 1926:10.11–12. Cf. also the following prescription by Hermogenes: τὰ δὲ πάνυ ψευδῆ οὔτε ἀνασκευαστέον οὔτε κατασκευαστέον (Rabe 1913:11).
[ back ] 147. Rabe 1913:451–452.
[ back ] 148. Εἴπερ γὰρ ὁ Ζεύς, τῶν θεῶν ὁ βελτίων,/ὁ γῆν ἀνασπῶν καὶ τὸ πᾶν περιτρέπων .../ἔμβρυον ἀρτίφλεκτον εἰς μηρὸν μέσον/ἡμιτελεσφόρητον ἐρράπτειν θέλει/καὶ ζωπυρηθὲν ἐξάγει πρὸς ἡμέραν,/καὶ μητρικόν τι καὶ γυναικῶδες πάθος/ὁ τῶν Τιτάνων βασιλεὺς ὑποστέγει;/εἰ τὴν ᾿Αθηνᾶν ἐκ κεφαλῆς ἐκκύει,/ξίφει ῥαγείσης καὶ διχασθείσης μέσον,/πῶς αἰσχύνην φαίημεν ἀνδρῶν γηΐνων/ἃ τοῖς θεοῖς τίμια τοῖς οὐρανίοις; (4.195–206).
[ back ] 149. Hörandner 1974:79.
[ back ] 150. Trypanis 1968:36, ιζ.´ 1–11. The Akathistos might have been also used as a model for the hymn addressed to Mistylos that is later performed by the clown Satyrion; see the discussion below.
[ back ] 151. Trans. Trypanis 1971:384, slightly adapted here.
[ back ] 152. For the characterization of the Virgin as an ἀμνάς, see e.g. Maas and Trypanis 1963:142. α. ´ 1 (τὸν ἴδιον ἄρνα θεωροῦσα ἡ ἀμνάς); Trypanis 1963:290. α. ´ 3. The symbolism of the ἀμνός had found its more explicit expression in religious art during the iconoclastic period, where Christ was really depicted as a sheep. The Council in Troullos prohibited the use of this symbol in religious art. It is worth noting that the twelfth-century canonists Zonaras and Balsamon commented on this particular canon (Ralles and Potles, 2.493–494).
[ back ] 153. My emphasis; Maas and Trypanis 1963:10, α ´.3–9.
[ back ] 154. The same adjective, ξένος, is used also in the Akathistos to describe the τόκος of the Virgin; Trypanis 1968:35. ιδʹ. 1.
[ back ] 155. See e.g. Romanos’ second hymn on the Annunciation, where the image of the miraculous bush is the Leitmotiv: Κατεπλάγη ᾿Ιωσὴφ τὸ ὑπὲρ φύσιν θεωρῶν/καὶ ἐλάμβανε εἰς νοῦν τὸν ἐπὶ πόκον ὑετὸν/ἐν τῇ ἀσπόρῳ κυήσει σου, θεοτόκε,/βάτον ἐν πυρὶ ἀκατάφλεκτον (Maas and Trypanis 1963:289. prooemium, 1–4; cf. also Maas and Trypanis: α. ´ 1–2; 291, ε ´; 293. ια ´, ιβ ´). See also the second troparion of the first ode in Ioannes of Damaskos’ canon on the Nativity: ἤνεγκε γαστὴρ ἡγιασμένη Λόγον/σαφῶς ἀφλέκτῳ ζωγραφουμένη βάτῳ (Cantarella 1942:1.111, 6–7). For examples of the use of this motif in a satirical context, cf. Psellos’ poem Against a Sabbaita Monk (Westerink 1992:266.216–220).
[ back ] 156. Maas and Trypanis 1963:14, ια ´. 3–4.
[ back ] 157. Cantarella 1942:1.120, 140–143.
[ back ] 158. Cantarella 1942:1.114, 101–103. Romanos offers a very powerful version of this motif in his first hymn on the Annunciation: Ioseph says to the Virgin: ῍Ω φαεινή, φλόγα ὁρῶ καὶ ἀνθρακίαν κυκλοῦσαν σε·/κλίβανος πλήρης πυρὸς ἐγένετο ἡ ἄμεμπτος γαστήρ σου (Maas and Trypanis 1963:287, ιε.´ 3–5). A variation of the same motif in connection with the metaphoric image of the lamb is also exploited in another poem by Theodoros Prodromos, in which he describes the symptoms of his illness: Πῶς ἐτεφρούμην τῷ πυρὶ καὶ πῶς ἀπηνθρακώμην/ἐξωπ[τημένος τῷ πυρὶ Θεῷ] ἀντεθυόμην/οὐχ ὥσπερ ἄμωμος ἀμνός, τίς γὰρ ἐγὼ καὶ τίνων/[ἀλλ’ ὡς κατάρατος] κριὸς ἐξ ἁμαρτίας μέλας (Hörandner 1974:46.56–59).
[ back ] 159. The same ambivalence is also conveyed later in the novel, in the scene of the pretended suicide and resurrection of the clown Satyrion discussed below.
[ back ] 160. It seems that in the twelfth century the exegesis of the canons experienced a notable flourishing. It has been suggested that some of these commentaries had been written as lectures for academic audiences (Demetracopoulos 1979:146–147). It should be noted that in the twelfth century similar commentaries were also written by Gregorios Pardos, Zonaras, and Eustathios of Thessalonike (see Komines 1960:252). Prodromos’ commentaries indicate that the commentators were familiar with each other’s works (Komines 1960:251).
[ back ] 161. Stevenson 1888:52.
[ back ] 162. Stevenson 1888:71.
[ back ] 163. Stevenson 1888:48.
[ back ] 164. An intriguing version of the same mythological theme in a satirical context is found in the anonymous Philopatris (Macleod 1987:4.3; on this text, see also above n41; cf. also the twelfth-century scedographia on the birth of Athena published in Polemis 1995:292–293).
[ back ] 165. Εἰς τὰ Φῶτα (Moreschini and Gallay 1990:39).
[ back ] 166. Moreschini and Gallay 1990:39.3.
[ back ] 167. Moreschini and Gallay 1990:39.4.14–17.
[ back ] 168. Psellos’ treatise on Gregorios of Nazianzos’ style, for example, attests to the popularity of the Cappadocian father in the eleventh century (cf. above Chapter Two, n41); as for the twelfth century, characteristic is the information provided by Gregorios Pardos, who observes that Gregorios of Nazianzos had inspired many a melodist: τὸν γὰρ μέγαν φωστῆρα τῆς ᾿Ορθοδοξίας διδάσκαλον, Γρηγόριον δηλαδὴ τὸν Θεολόγον, ἅπαντες οἵ τε μελῳδοὶ καὶ οἱ περί τι τῶν ψυχωφελῶν καὶ θείων σπουδάζοντες διδάσκαλον ἔχουσι καὶ δογμάτων καὶ λόγων (cited by Komines 1960:248). Not rarely, Theodoros Prodromos himself refers to Gregorios of Nazianzos in the commentaries discussed here; see e.g. Stevenson 1888:34; 35; 44; 45.
[ back ] 169. Nimmo-Smith 1992:195.11–14; 223.14–18. Pseudo-Nonnos comments also on the myth of Athena’s birth; Nimmo-Smith 1992:223.32–41.
[ back ] 170. Nimmo-Smith 1992:223.20–26.
[ back ] 171. On this description, see below in this Chapter.
[ back ] 172. These manuscripts are the Τάφου 14 in Jerusalem (second half of the 11th c.), Vaticanus Graecus 1947 (11th–12th c.), Panteleemon 6 (11th c.), Paris Coislin 239 (end of the 11th c.); see Weitzmann1951:9–11.
[ back ] 173. These are the Jerusalem and Vatican manuscripts (Weitzmann 1951:47–48).
[ back ] 174. Cf. Prodromos: ἔμβρυον ἀρτίφλεκτον ... ἡμιτελεσφόρητον; 4.199–200.
[ back ] 175. Cf. Prodromos: εἰς μηρὸν μέσον ἐρράπτειν θέλει; 4.198.
[ back ] 176. Cf. Prodromos: καὶ ζωπυρηθὲν ἐξάγει πρὸς ἡμέραν,/καὶ μητρικόν τι καὶ γυναικῶδες πάθος/ὁ τῶν Τιτάνων βασιλεὺς ὑποστέγει; 4.200–202.
[ back ] 177. The Panteleemon and Paris manuscripts; see Weitzmann 1951:49.
[ back ] 178. Cf. Prodromos: τὴν ᾿Αθηνᾶν ἐκ κεφαλῆς ἐκκύει,/ξίφει ῥαγείσης καὶ διχασθείσης μέσον; 4.203–204.
[ back ] 179. These are the illustrations in the Jerusalem, Panteleemon, and Paris manuscripts; see Weitzmann 1951:47, 49. Perhaps an association between Zeus, the god of gods, and the Emperor is also hidden in the indirect comparison of Mistylos with Zeus in the presentation of the former as ὑψοῦ καθεσθεὶς καὶ τιτανῶδες βλέπων (4.17–18; my emphasis here points to the possible allusion of Mistylos’ titanic-like appearance to the characterization of Zeus as ὁ τῶν Τιτάνων βασιλεύς).
[ back ] 180. Original text in Kurtz 1903:114.8–12.
[ back ] 181. Original text in Kurtz 1903:114.30–35.
[ back ] 182. Macleod 1972: Symposium, 19.
[ back ] 183. Prodromos’ admiration for Lucian’s writings is attested to not only by his “Lucianic” dialogues but also by his explicit reference to him as the “sweet Syrian” (ὁ γλυκὺς Σύρος; Against the Long-Bearded Old Man Who Thinks that He Is Wise, in Boissonade 1832: v. 25).
[ back ] 184. Tatios 3.20.
[ back ] 185. In Xenophon, the jester (γελωτοποιός) tries to entertain the company with a pantomime (Symposium I.11–16; I.21–27); for the role of γελωτοποιός in ancient Greece, see e.g. Reich 1909:320, 237, 550f.; also Trenkner 1958:18–19.
[ back ] 186. See above p. 245.
[ back ] 187. See, for instance, his poem on his illness in which he describes himself as “amphibious,” oscillating between life and death. Although he is still alive, he is actually dead: Ζωὸς ἐγὼ δύεσσιν, ἀτὰρ ζωοῖς νέκυς εἰμί,/ἀμφίβιον δὲ μ’ ἔθηκε βροτοῖς μερόπεσσιν ᾿Εριννύς;/οὔτε λίην βιόουσι μετέσσομαι ἀμφ’ ἀνέρεσσιν/οὔτε λίην φθιμένοισι, μέσην δ’ ἐπιτέμνω ἀταρπόν (Hörandner 1974:78.7–10). Cf. also Ptochoprodromos’ poem on his wife, in which the almost fatal fall of the narrator’s child is described in a most comic way (Hesseling and Pernot 1910: I.208–220).
[ back ] 188. PG 1328.41.
[ back ] 189. This margin indication is preserved in manuscripts H, U and L (see Marcovich’ edition). The comic effect of Satyrion’s appearance is also underlined by the narrator himself: [Σατυρίων] πάντας εἰς γέλωτα συγκινῶν μέγαν/ ῞ᾼδης ἀμειδὴς οὗτος εἱστήκει μόνος (4.224–225).
[ back ] 190. ῎Ανθρωπε ... ἐξανάστα καὶ βίου·/κέλευσμα τοῦτο τοῦ μεγίστου Μιστύλου (4.237–238).
[ back ] 191. Bekker 1838a: Vita Basilii 22. This incident is discussed in Tinnefeld 1974:330–333 and Ljubarskij 1987.
[ back ] 192. Bakhtin 1984a:165–166.
[ back ] 193. This name comes from barbitos, an ancient Greek stringed instrument. For barbitos in ancient Greek literature and vase paintings, see Maas and Snyder 1989:39–40; 113–128. It is worth noting that barbitos was used in the context of the ancient sumposion. For barbitos, see also Mathiesen 1999:249–253; West’s discussion is mainly based on Maas and Snyder 1989 but offers a useful collection of the ancient Greek sources on barbitos (West 1992:50–51; 57–59).
[ back ] 194. Although unique in its character, Manasses’ ekphrasis is not the only piece of evidence for the fascination of twelfth-century Byzantines with the “exotic” spectacle of dwarfs. Eustathios of Thessalonike attests to this general interest in his comments on the “Northern Pygmaioi” in his scholia on the Iliad (van der Valk 1971/87: I.588). Koukoules notes vaguely that the dwarfs referred to by Eustathios were different from the ones who frequented the palace or the houses of contemporary aristocrats, but he does not give any specific examples (Koukoules 1950:2.393). Niketas Choniates explicitly refers to the function of dwarfs as court jesters in the context of his description of the lavish dinner parties of Isaak III (Van Dieten 1975:441). Cf. also Magdalino 1997:164, where the argument is made that Manasses’ ekphraseis might have been performed in the context of rhetorical theaters.
[ back ] 195. Sternbach 1902:7.27–38.
[ back ] 196. PG 133.1293–1294 A. Prodromos refers to similar performances in his Lucianic dialogue Ignorant or Grammarian in His Own Conceit (Podestà 1945:248.129–133).
[ back ] 197. Ralles and Potles 2.425. In his discussion of the same Canon, Balsamon refers to certain “royal games” that had been invented in accordance with the spirit of the Canon (βασιλικὰ παίγνια· τὸν Κοντοπαίκτην δηλαδή, τὸν Μάρωνα, τὸν ᾿Αχιλλέα, τὴν ᾿Οκτώηχον, καὶ τὰ λοιπά; Ralles and Potles 2.426). Nothing specific is known about the character of these games, but it seems that Kontopaiktes might have been an acrobatic performance. Mango rejects the view that these games were theatrical plays, and speculates that the mimes referred to by Balsamon and Zonaras were performed by travelling troupes at fairs or in aristocratic houses (Mango 1981:351–352; cf. also Puchner 1990:14). Mango’s discussion would have been much more elucidating if it had taken into account the information provided by the other contemporary Byzantine sources that I am discussing here. Digenes Akrites offers an interesting description of mimes, dancers, and musicians performing at a festive dinner (see the original text in Jeffreys 1998a: G 884–892). For a general discussion of mimes in Byzantium, see Tinnefeld 1974. For depictions of performers in Byzantine art, see Cutler 1984/5:44. The Venetian manuscript discussed at the beginning of this Chapter also offers some interesting illustrations of such performers (see above p. 226). For depictions of musicians in Byzantine art, see also Papanikola-Bakirtze 1999: no. 9.
[ back ] 198. Τούτων [sc. τῶν σκηνικῶν] δὲ τοὺς μὲν ἐνώπιον βασιλέων ταῦτα ὑποκρινομένους, ἐντίμους ἔχουσιν οἱ νόμοι τῆς πολιτείας, τοὺς δὲ ἐν πανηγύρεσι καὶ δήμων ἄλλαις συνάξεσιν ἐπιδεικνυμένους τοιαῦτα, καὶ γέλωτα τοῖς ὁρῶσι κινοῦντας ταῖς ὑποκρίσεσι, καὶ τοῖς ἐπὶ κόρρης ῥαπίσμασι καὶ ψοφήμασιν, ἀτίμους ἡγοῦνται (Ralles and Potles 3.414).
[ back ] 199. Choniates’ description of Isaak III’s revelries recalls Eugeneianos’ vehement satire against “Anacharsis.” The images that Choniates employs create a similar grotesque atmosphere. Especially exaggerated is his description of the dishes served at the dinners: there were, he says, “mountains of bread loaves and a sea of fish and wine” (Van Dieten 1975:441.10–12). Choniates speaks also about the sexual orgies in which these feasts culminated (Van Dieten 1975:21–22). The banquets were attended by mimes who entertained the company with their jokes, one of which Choniates records in his history (Van Dieten 1975:23–30). Elsewhere, Choniates refers to the type of jests following banquets as ἐπιδόρπιος γέλως (‘after-dinner laughter’; van Dieten 1975:540). It is worth noting that a similar term (συμποσιαστικὸν ἀστέϊσμα) is employed in the manuscript tradition of the Komnenian novels to characterize the humorous banquet scenes of these texts; see below p. 291.
[ back ] 200. Tafel 1832:97.33–59.
[ back ] 201. For the depiction of performers in art, see above n. 178. Cf. also Grabar 1960:143–144; Galavaris 1969:259–260. These two examples employ a rather exaggerated pictorial vocabulary: the performers are depicted naked, a detail that obviously does not correspond to Byzantine reality.
[ back ] 202. On this imagery, cf. Hunger 1978:2.132. The Emperor’s metaphoric associations with the sun were later dramatically reenacted in the context of the ceremony of prokupsis. According to Michael Jeffreys, the first cases of systematic celebration of this ceremony date from the early years of Manuel I’s reign (M. Jeffreys 1987).
[ back ] 203. See e.g. Hörandner 1974:24.44; 30.102; cf. Hörandner 1974:17.380–390; 21; also Manganeios Prodromos, E. and M. Jeffreys forth.:24.10; 60–63; 20.97–98; for this motif in Byzantine literature in general, see also Hunger 1964:58–63.
[ back ] 204. In some pieces of his court poetry, Theodoros Prodromos employs similar imagery. In the following passage from a poem dedicated to the victorious expedition of the Emperor Ioannes II in Kilikia in 1139, all of nature is called upon to glorify the Emperor: Αἰνεῖτε μου τὸν κραταιὸν δεσπότην ᾿Ιωάννην,/ἀστέρες πάντες καὶ τὸ φῶς, ἥλιος καὶ σελήνη,/πᾶς οὐρανὸς κατάστερος καὶ πᾶς ὑπὲρ ἐκεῖνον,/πᾶν ὕδωρ, ὅσον ὕπερθεν τῆς καταστέρου στέγης,/αἰνεῖτε μου τὸν ἄνακτα, σύμπαν ἀβύσσου στόμα,/κρύσταλλος, χάλαζα, χιών, πῦρ, πνεῦμα καταιγίδος,/αἰνεῖτε μου τὸν ἄνακτα, τὰ καρποφόρα ξύλα,/ἄμπελος, κυπάριττος, συκῆ, ῥόα καὶ πᾶσαι κέδροι,/θηρία, κτήνη, πετεινά, πᾶν πτερωτόν, πᾶν ἕρπον,/αἰνεῖτε μου τὸν ἄνακτα, πᾶσα πνοὴ καὶ φύσις (Hörandner 1974:11.151–160). See also Hörandner 1974:4.121–122; 172–173; 11.15; 16.85–119; cf. also Manganeios Prodromos, E. and M. Jeffreys forth.:31.14–25. This poem by Manganeios is especially interesting because it emphasizes the Emperor Manuel I’s alleged power to rearrange the seasons, a motif recalling Gobryas’ reference to Mistylos’ miraculous control over the laws of nature (4.134–143). As a matter of fact, the repetition of the second person singular of the verb γιγνώσκω in Manganeios Prodromos’ poem recalls the similar repetition of the verb ὁρῶ in the passage from Theodoros Prodromos’ novel: Εἶδες δυνάστην ἀρχηγόν, τὸν αὐτοκράτορά μου,/ἔγνως τὴν τούτου δύναμιν, ἔγνως τὸ κράτος, κράλη,/ἐπέγνως καὶ τὴν σύνεσιν καὶ τὴν αὐτοῦ σοφίαν·/αὐτὸς κρατεῖ καὶ στρατηγεῖ καὶ ναυπηγεῖ καὶ πλέει,/καὶ μεταπλάττει τοὺς καιροὺς ποικίλως καὶ πανσόφως (E. and M. Jeffreys forth.:31.41–45). These similarities reinforce the idea that Satyrion assumes here a function reminiscent of the role of actual Byzantine court poets.
[ back ] 205. See especially 4.254–257: σὺ τῇ κελεύσει τὰς φύσεις μετατρέπεις·/στρουθῶν μὲν ἀρνοὺς δεικνύεις φυτοσπόρους,/στρουθοὺς δὲ ποιεῖς ἐκγόνους τῶν ἀρνίων,/καὶ τὴν φλέγουσαν τοῦ πυρὸς ψύχεις φύσιν; cf. the discussion of similar images in Gobryas’ speech above. It is also tempting to assume that the repetition of the address χαῖρε in the first and the last three strophes of Satyrion’s song might have alluded to religious hymns such as the Akathistos where the same address is used extensively. The association of Mistylos’ power with Satyrion’s alleged resurrection from Hades (4.251–252) may have had similar religious connotations.
[ back ] 206. See Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2003b:39–40; cf. Magdalino’s most insightful analysis in Magdalino 1993:354–355.
[ back ] 207. Geertz 1980. On political rituals in general, cf. Kertzer 1988; Hunt 1977; Vogt and Abel 1977. Closely connected with the idea of “political rituals” is the debate on the sacred or secular character and function of “ritual.” Gluckman, among the first anthropologists to discuss the issue in a systematic way, preferred the term “ceremonious” for ritualized forms of secular behavior (Gluckman 1962; Gluckman and Gluckman 1977). His arguments have been refuted by Moore and Myerhoff (Moore and Myerhoff 1977b). More flexible is the concept of “ritual poetics” put forward in Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2003b; see also Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2005a:5–7 and the discussion above in this Chapter.
[ back ] 208. Καὶ καθωμιλημένῃ καὶ ἁπλουστέρᾳ φράσει κεχρήμεθα καὶ λέξεσι ταῖς αὐταῖς καὶ ὀνόμασι τοῖς ἐφ’ ἑκάστῳ πράγματι πάλαι προσαρμοσθεῖσι καὶ λεγομένοις, ὑφ’ ὧν τοῦ βασιλείου κράτους ῥυθμῷ καὶ τάξει φερομένου, εἰκονοίζοιμεν τοῦ δημιουργοῦ τὴν περὶ τόδε τὸ πᾶν ἁρμονίαν καὶ κίνησιν (Reiske 1829/30: I.4).
[ back ] 209. For examples of the depiction of Dionysos’ entourage in Byzantine art, see e.g. Weitzmann 1951:179–183; cf. also Goldschmidt and Weitzmann:1.30–32; 34–35; 29; Cutler 1984/5:44.
[ back ] 210. Longos 2.2.1.
[ back ] 211. Cf. Rhodanthe and Dosikles 4.395–406.
[ back ] 212. The humorous character of this description is indicated by the narrator himself: Dionysos, he tells us, bursts into laughter when the Satyrs pretend to be hurt by the grapes they throw to each other (4.377). At some point, the description becomes almost obscene: some Satyrs urinate on their wounded toes in order to cure them (4.375–376).
[ back ] 213. Athenaios offers an extensive list of different types of cups and useful comments on their origins in book 11 of his Deipnosophistai. He also refers to examples of cups with specific Dionysiac connotations (11.466; 471). Often his examples are drawn from comedy (see e.g. 11.467; 494, where the description of cups is illustrated with references to the comic image of bibulous old women). For the use of drinking cups in the context of the ancient symposium in general, see Davidson 1997:61–69; on cups in comedy, see Wilkins 2000:231–234. Cf. also Lissarrague’s discussion of the depiction of Dionysiac images on drinking cups in antiquity (Lissarrague 1994).
[ back ] 214. In my view, Mistylos’ name, too, may have some parodic connotations. “Mistylos” recalls the Greek word μυστίλη, meaning ‘bread scooped out as a spoon’ (LSJ s.v.). See also the following observation of Eustathios of Thessalonike: μυστίλαι ... ψωμοί εἰσιν κοῖλοι, οἷον μύστρα κατὰ Αἴλιον Διονύσιον, τουτέστι μυστρία, εἰπεῖν ἰδιωτικῶς. καὶ μυστιλᾶσθαι, φησί, τὸ οὕτως ἐσθίειν. κατὰ δὲ ἄλλους τὸ κοιλαίνειν ψωμούς (Stallbaum 1825:138.44–139.1). The possible humorous links of Mistylos’ name with food are also indicated by his association with the preparation of the grotesque banquet. If this interpretation is correct, then Mistylos should be viewed as the caricature of a leader who is capable of preparing only culinary, not military, miracles; the latter are rather worked out by his enemies. Very reasonably, Plepelits prefers to connect Mistylos’ name with the Homeric verb μιστύλλω (Plepelits 1996:10) but he fails to discern its possible humorous associations: in Homer this verb is used with the euteles meaning of ‘cutting up the meat before roasting’ (LSJ s.v.).
[ back ] 215. Hunger 1978:2.132.
[ back ] 216. E. Jeffreys 2000.
[ back ] 217. Leib 1937–1945:11.10.
[ back ] 218. It is not necessary to assume that in the description of the sea battle in his novel, Theodoros Prodromos alluded to this specific naval battle between the Byzantines and the Pisans. However, given the other equally subtle allusions of this novel to historical reality detected by Hunger (especially in his 1972b article on the possible allusions of Prodromos’ frogmen to the realia of the Byzantine army) and Cupane (Cupane 1974b), such a possibility should not be excluded. For a general discussion of the topos of the barbarian in the Komnenian novel, cf. Juanno 1992. Juanno hesitates to see any specific allusions of this topos to concrete historical events. For the antithesis between the barbarians and the Greeks in the ancient Greek novel, cf. Kuck 1996.
[ back ] 219. Anthropology and performance studies can offer useful theoretical models for the analysis of aspects of Byzantine theatricality. In the absence, however, of any systematic study of performativity in medieval Greek literature and culture, such methods should be employed prudently. On comparative perspectives on performance, see Turner 1982 and especially 1987. Turner puts a useful emphasis on the interaction between performance, ritual, and social antagonism. Insightful are also the theoretical discussions of performance by Schechner (see especially Schechner 1985; 1988). Bauman’s studies of the performance of oral literature may also be of some methodological value for the exploration of aspects of performativity in medieval Greek literature (see especially Bauman 1977; 1986; also Bauman and Briggs 1990; Beeman 1993).
[ back ] 220. For an insightful approach of ritual in terms of performance, see Tambiah 1985; see also Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2003b and note 219 of this Chapter.
[ back ] 221. The manuscript tradition preserves two forms of her name: Μαρυλλίς and Βαρυλλίς; Giusti’s arguments for the preference of the latter are convincing enough (Giusti 1993:222n16).
[ back ] 222. Cacophony as a satirical theme in the context of banquets occurs also in Anacharsis (Chrestides 1984:216.193–194) and in the Comedy of (S)Katablattas (on which see below in this Chapter).
[ back ] 223. The line 7.305 (ὡς μή τι γ’ αὖθις ἐκφορήσοι καὶ κόπρους) is omitted in two of the four manuscripts that preserve the novel, that is, in mss. U (15th c.) and L (16th c.). For this omission, cf. Conca 1987:80–81.
[ back ] 224. In the Western European Middle Ages, old women were stereotypically associated with indecorous or even obscene modes of behavior. Drunkenness is a recurrent motif of their formulaic depiction in the literature of the era; on obscenity in the Western European Middle Ages in general, see Ziolkowski 1998; on old women in particular, see Ziolkowski 1998:81–86. For Baryllis’ comic image, cf. Giusti 1993.
[ back ] 225. See also, for instance, Lysistrate 465–466; Thesmophoriazousai 347–348; 735–738; Ploutos 435–436; Nephelai 554–555, where the reference is to a comic character—a drunken old woman dancing the kordax—which Eupolis is said to have taken from Phrynichos. Athenaios reports that in Antiphanes’ Mystis, “a bibulous old hag is singing the praises of a large cylix and rejecting with contempt the oxybaphon as being too small. Someone, then, says to her: ‘But do take a drink.’ She replies: ‘I’ll yield to you in this; for somehow the cylix has an alluring shape—O ye gods!—and is keeping with the glory of the festival” (Athenaios 11.494.c-d; trans. Gulick). On drunkenness as a frequent constituent of the caricatures of old women in Attic comedy, see also Henderson 1987:119–120; Wilkins 2000:232–234; O’Higgins 2003:133–135; 173–180.
[ back ] 226. Original text in Canivet and Oikonomidès 1982/3:45–47. Krasopateras, a satire that was most probably composed in the same period (mid-fifteenth century), exploits the topos of excessive drinking in an exceptionally consistent and creative way; on the date of this text (previously thought to belong to the twelfth century), see Eideneier 1988:16–17.
[ back ] 227. On flatulence in Attic comedy, see Henderson 1975:196–199; on scatological humor in general in comedy, see also Edwards 1991:163–168; Wilkins 2000:28–29.
[ back ] 228. Miller, who has edited this text, attributed it to Manuel Philes (Miller 1857:306–311; but cf. Hörandner 1974:50). Aristophanic parallels can be found in Nephelai 1183–1184; Thesmophoriazouzai 1056–1057, Ekklesiazousai 877 ff; especially 893–899; 1049–1073; Ploutos 1064–1065.
[ back ] 229. Heliodoros 6.14–15.
[ back ] 230. It is worth noting that the Patriarch Photios must have taken great pleasure in reading the scene of necromancy in Heliodoros’ novel since he offers a relatively detailed description of it in his Bibliotheke (Henry 1959–1977:50b.37–51a.7). Photios has preserved also the detail of the helpful old woman in Iamblichos’ novel (Henry 1959–1977:74a.27–31). For other old women in the ancient Greek novel, see Chariton 3.9.3; Xenophon 5.11.2; Heliodoros 7.9–10, especially 7.10.18–20, where there is an indirect description of old Kybele’s cunning machinations.
[ back ] 231. See Hollis 1990:38–40, who does not refer to Eugeneianos. He fails to do so even in his brief analysis of the theme of hospitality in Byzantium (Hollis 1990:353–354).
[ back ] 232. According to a probable reconstruction of Kallimachos’ fragmented text, Hekale had also lost her two sons (Hollis 1990:189).
[ back ] 233. This indication appears in manuscripts M, U, and L. Ancient and medieval Greek rhetorical treatises refer to the potential humorous character of banquets; see above pp. 245, 276 where Hermogenes’ and Gregorios Pardos’ comments on this theme are discussed.
[ back ] 234. Μαινάς can also mean πόρνη (prostitute; LSJ s.v.); cf. Prodromos’ usage of the same term in his satire against the lecherous old woman that I discussed above. Eugeneianos employs a similar image in his description of Baryllis’ dance (7.277). In this case, though, this metaphor is clearly devoid of such specific derogatory overtones.
[ back ] 235. Weitzmann offers interesting examples of this theme in medieval Greek art (Weitzmann 1951:108, 130; Goldschmidt and Weitzmann 1930:1.34–35). See also the famous depiction of female dancers on the “crown of Monomachos” (Wessel 1967: no. 32). From the mid-eleventh century onward an emphasis on realism is observed in depictions of dancing in Byzantine art. The examples are numerous. Some of the most interesting pictorial representations include Papanikola-Bakirtze 2002:201 nos. 223, 224; Papanikola-Bakirtzis et al. 1992:10 no. 4; Bakirtzis—Papanikola-Bakirtzis 1981:423, 426–427 no. 9; Papanikola-Bakirtze et al. 1999:155 no. 335. For other examples of depictions of dancing in Byzantine art, cf. Kalavrezou 2005.
[ back ] 236. Τὰς οὕτω λεγομένας Καλάνδας, καὶ τὰ λεγόμενα Βότα, καὶ τὰ καλούμενα Βρουμάλια, καὶ τὴν ἐν τῇ πρώτῃ τοῦ Μαρτίου μηνὸς ἡμέρᾳ τελουμένην πανήγυριν, καθάπαξ ἐκ τῆς τῶν πιστῶν πολιτείας περιαιρεθῆναι βουλόμεθα, ἀλλὰ μὲν καὶ τὰς τῶν γυναίων δημοσίας ὀρχήσεις, πολλὴν λύμην καὶ βλάβην ἐμποιεῖν δυναμένας ... μήτε τὸ τοῦ βδελυκτοῦ Διονύσου ὄνομα τὴν σταφυλὴν ἀποθλίβοντας ἐν τοῖς ληνοῖς ἐπιβοᾶν (cf. Zonaras’ commentary on this Canon; see also Rochow 1978:484; 487–488; Mango 1981:349).
[ back ] 237. Ralles and Potles 2.449.
[ back ] 238. Ralles and Potles. 2.451. Cf. Kazhdan 1967:113, where the likely affinities of Baryllis’ performance with carnival are noted in passing. An additional important piece of evidence is also offered by Niketas Choniates (Van Dieten 1975:508–509).
[ back ] 239. Kurtz 1903:136.209.
[ back ] 240. Kurtz 1903:136.20–33; 90–94.
[ back ] 241. Kurtz 1903:136.35–56; 131–134; 171.
[ back ] 242. Psellos discerns two kinds of songs that were performed on this occasion. The first belonged to the stock of traditional popular songs. The second group of songs were associated, I suggest, with the particular festival and characterized by a considerable degree of improvisation (καὶ χοροὺς ἱστῶσι καὶ ᾄσματα ᾄδουσι, τὰ μὲν πόρρωθεν πεποιημένα, τὰ δὲ αὐτόθεν μουσουργούμενα καὶ ᾀδόμενα; Sathas 1876:2.530). For improvisation as a general characteristic of oral poetry, see, for instance, Lord 1960; 1991 (especially 76–77). Lord proposes and develops the helpful concept of composition-in-performance, a notion that has been developed into the more flexible notion of recomposition-in-performance by Nagy (Nagy 1996:7–38); cf. also Foley’s insightful discussion of “traditional referentiality” as an important characteristic of oral poetry (Foley 1991).
[ back ] 243. ᾿Αλλὰ καὶ ὅσαι παρηβηκυῖαι καὶ ἔξωροι καὶ πρεσβύτιδες ἀκριβῶς, αἳ δὴ καὶ προμνήστριαι τῆς τέχνης δοκοῦσιν· αὗται τοιγαροῦν καὶ προΐστανται τοῦ χοροῦ καὶ κατάρχουσι τῆ ᾠδῆς καὶ τῆς τελετῆς δεικνύουσι τὰ ἐξαίρετα; Sathas 1876:2.530. For the leading role of older women on other ritual occasions such as laments, cf. the discussion above on p. 89.
[ back ] 244. There is no comprehensive study on Byzantine popular culture. Koukoules’ seminal work remains exceptionally helpful in this respect, notwithstanding its problematic methodology. Important also are the discussions of the issue in Mango 1981, Kazhdan and Epstein 1985:74–99, and in the volume on everyday life in Byzantium edited by Prinzig and Simon (Fest und Alltag in Byzantium), and the Proceedings of the conference on daily life in Byzantium held in Athens in 1988 (῾Η καθημερινὴ ζωὴ στὸ Βυζάντιο; cf. also Angold 1995:457–467; Cupane 2002 offers a carefully argued and highly informative discussion). For an interesting examination of the perception of everyday life in Byzantine literature, see Magdalino 1987, which focuses on twelfth- and thirteenth-century texts, and particularly on Apokaukos. Magdalino rightly connects the special interest of the authors of this period in everyday life with the broader cultural and social changes that affected the relationship between patrons and writers as well as the authors’ perception of their own role (Magdalino 1987:36). Here I want to stress that the term “popular culture” should be used with caution when applied to medieval or, in general, premodern literary cultures since it implies a strict dichotomy between “great” and “little” traditions that does not always correspond to premodern sociocultural realities. Burke’s and particularly Gurevich’s seminal works on popular culture in early modern and medieval Europe, respectively, have drawn our attention to the interaction between “high” and “low,” oral and written literary traditions, official and popular ideologies (Burke 1978, especially 23–64; Gurevich 1988, especially 4–5; cf. also Hoy 1992). For an analysis of some aspects of the interrelationship between literature and popular tradition in Renaissance Crete, cf. Alexiou 1991; Roilos 2002. As for medieval Greek literature, the flexibility of the boundaries between popular culture and the culture of the elite is suggested, for instance, by the works of Ptochoprodromos, Michael Glykas (on whom, see Polites 1898), or Eustathios of Thessalonike (see Koukoules 1951) in the twelfth century, on the one hand, and the public performative context of compositions intended for court ceremonial, such as some of the Historische Gedichte by Theodoros Prodromos, on the other. For the possibility of the latter’s familiarity with more popular ways of literary expression, cf. also the rather neglected evidence provided in Legrand 1891.
[ back ] 245. For a discussion of this antithesis, see above Chapter Two.
[ back ] 246. See, for instance, Stewart 1991:162–191, especially 164–172.
[ back ] 247. Anthropological and historical studies confirm that in different cultures old women are not subjected to the same sociocultural restrictions as young women. On the contrary, they are usually allotted more flexibility and freedom in their exchanges with men because they are not considered potential threats to the equilibrium of social interactions, at least in those societies where the principles of shame, honor, and prestige are greatly dependent on proper sexual and moral behavior. Gutmann 1977 puts forward a useful but rather overly schematic “universal” model for the study of women’s mobility as determined by age. For a debate on this topic in connection with Greek antiquity, see Bremmer 1987 and Pratt’s rather exaggerated objections to Bremmer in Pratt 2000:49–54; for the general role of old men and women in the ancient novel, see Liviabella-Furiani 1992. Despite its several insights, Laiou 1981 does not address the role of older women in Byzantine society, an issue that remains unexplored. For discussions of sexuality (mainly of young women) as a possible threat to established social and moral values and its implications for women’s mobility in modern Greek contexts, cf. the papers in Dubish 1986, especially Friedl 1986 and Du Boulay 1986; see also Hirschon 1978.
[ back ] 248. Τοιαύτη πανήγυρις ἀλλόκοτος ... ἀπὸ κακῆς συνηθείας ἐν ταῖς ἔξω χώραις; Ralles and Potles 2.450. A similar attitude is also manifested in Balsamon’s description of his visit to a village in Thrace where he had the opportunity to attend a local ritual that he reports disapprovingly (Ralles and Potles 2.355–356).
[ back ] 249. On ritual time, see Leach 1961; 1976:33–41; Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2003b:37–38.
[ back ] 250. The ambivalence noted in the case of Nausikrates in Rhodanthe and Dosikles is different, for Nausikrates does not play any important role in the development of the narrated story. In Drosilla and Charikles, on the contrary, this extreme juxtaposition of grief and joy at the end of the novel acquires a pivotal structural significance since Kleandros and Kalligone constitute the narrative counterpart of the two protagonists. The fatal ending of the story of the secondary couple is supposed to be counterbalanced by the happy reunion of the protagonists. This may be seen as an innovative development of the similar motif in Theodoros Prodromos’ novel in which Kratandros’ beloved, Chrysochroe, had died already at the beginning of the story, while Kratandros returns eventually to his home.
[ back ] 251. Σὲ δὲ ἀλλὰ τῶν πραγμάτων ἴσως ἡ ἀνισότης ἀνήνασθαι τὴν Πρόνοιαν ἔπεισε; Καὶ μὴν διὰ τοῦτο μᾶλλον εἰσάγειν ἐχρῆν τὴν Πρόνοιαν. ῾Ως γὰρ οὐκ ἄν ποτε ἐπὶ μουσικῆς ῥυθμὸς συσταίη καὶ μέλος, βαρέων μόνως ὄντων ἢ ὀξέων τῶν φθόγγων ἁπάντων, ἀλλὰ τῇ παραπλοκῇ τῶν ἀνισοτόνων ἡ ἁρμονία γεννᾶσθαι εἴωθεν· οὕτω καὶ ὁ καθ’ ἡμᾶς ἅπας βίος ταῖς ἀνισότησι τῶν πραγμάτων ὑπὸ τῆς Προνοίας μουσικῶς κατερρύθμισται (PG 133.1295).
[ back ] 252. PG 133.1340 A. Both in this poem and in his above mentioned composition, Theodoros Prodromos employs some motifs that recur also in other examples of twelfth-century Byzantine literature—most notably in the Ptochoprodromika. Tradesmen or artisans (PG 133.1293; PG 133.1335–1336) are used as examples of undeservedly well-to-do social groups. For a discussion of similar motifs in other Byzantine literature of the period, see Alexiou 1986; Beaton 1987; Magdalino 1993:341–342, which, however, do not refer to these two pieces by Theodoros Prodromos. Theodoros Prodromos also blames money for the inequality and the thriving of slander among men (PG 133.1335–1336). It is noteworthy that Manasses, too, employs the same image in his novel (frs. 23, 84; cf. frs. 30, 31). Other fragments of Manasses’ novel speak about the vicissitudes of life as a necessary phase of the divine plan (frs. 49, 76; cf. fr. 59). In accordance with general Christian ethics and perhaps also because of his familiarity with the broader discourse on Pronoia in contemporary Byzantine literature, Manasses stresses that all misfortunes in life serve the work of God since they help mortals realize that the good is something that they cannot acquire by themselves (Νομίζω δ’ ὅτι καὶ θεὸς ἐπίτηδες κολούει/καὶ καταβάλλει τὰ θνητῶν καὶ ταπεινοῖ καὶ φύρει,/ὡς μή τις λέγῃ τὸ καλὸν ἀφ’ ἑαυτοῦ κεκτῆσθαι, fr. 76.14–16). On the concept of providence in Byzantium, see Beck 1937, which remains useful.
[ back ] 253. See the edition of Proklos’ opuscula on this subject in Boese 1960. On the concept of pronoia in Proklan philosophy, see the volume Pronoia et Contingence (1977).
[ back ] 254. Isaac 1977:32–37.
[ back ] 255. Θεῶν πρόνοια: 5.188; 7.185; 8.147; θεοῦ πρόνοια: 7.208.
[ back ] 256. Cf. Thedoros Prodromos’ Rhodanthe and Dosikles 1.547; 2.455; 3.75; 8.321; 9.156; also Chariton 5.6.8; Longos 1.8.1; 4.24.2; 36.1; Achilleus Tatios 7.10.1.
[ back ] 257. Mathew 19.6. Slightly modified variations of the same passage are also encountered in Digenes Akrites in clearly Christian contexts (E. Jeffreys 1998a: G 6.143; E 1170, 1305; cf. E. Jeffreys 1998a: xliv).
[ back ] 258. Kazhdan, who does not discuss the unhappy ending of the love story of Kleandros and Kalligone, reads the use of this phrase by Eugeneianos as a parodic allusion to Christianity. In his view, the parodic connotations of this phrase derive from the fact that here the word θεός does not refer to Christian God but to a heathen deity, Dionysos, who protects the protagonists of the novel (Kazhdan 1967:116). Kazhdan interprets the overall use of the word πρόνοια in Drosilla and Charikles in the same manner, thus failing to discern its more serious connotations.
[ back ] 259. Cf. 3.12, where it is reported that Kalligone had used the same phrase to stress the power of the love that united her with Kleandros.