4. The ritual lament for gods and heroes

The close connection between ritual and lamentation analysed in Part I suggests that the traditional lament for the dead fulfils a dual function: objectively, it is designed to honour and appease the dead, while subjectively, it gives expression to a wide range of conflicting emotions. But the lament for the dead should not be viewed in isolation from two other important and ancient types of lament, the lament for the death of gods and heroes, and the historical lament for disasters affecting a city or a people. By examining their growth in more detail, I hope in Part II to indicate how these three types of lament, for gods, cities and men, became fused in such a way as to provide material for a rich and varied poetic response, in both literary and vernacular laments.

Adonis, Linos and Hyakinthos

The earliest reference to the lament for Adonis in Greek literature comes from a fragment generally attributed to Sappho. It was probably part of a lament performed antiphonally as a dialogue between Aphrodite and the Nymphs: [1]
— Κατθναίσκει, Κυθέρη’, ἄβρος Ἄδωνις· τί κε θεῖμεν;
— Καττύπτεσθε, κόραι, καὶ κατερείκεσθε κίθωνας.
140a L-P
— Tender Adonis is dying, Kythereia. What are we to do?
— Beat your breasts, maidens, and rend your tunics.
After Sappho, there is no substantial literary reference to Adonis until the comic poets of the mid-fifth century B.C. [1a] It seems that the Adonia {55|56} was an essentially popular festival, at no time incorporated into official Athenian cults, and that it belonged exclusively to the women. In the Lysistrata, we are told how the women would make a wooden image of Adonis and lay it out on the rooftops for lamentation and interment, weeping and beating their breasts (387-98). Fragments from other comic poets confirm the popular character of the festival, and suggest that it was an occasion for ritual joy and ecstatic dancing as well as for lamentation. [2]
Nearly two centuries later, Theokritos describes the same popular festival as it was celebrated in Alexandria (Idyll 15). It is a penetrating sketch of two Syracusan ladies residing in Alexandria, who exchange gossip on children, servants, difficult husbands and the latest fashions as they prepare to attend the first day of the ritual for Adonis organized by Queen Arsinoe within the precincts of royal palace. After fighting their way through the crowded streets to the palace, they admire the intricacy of the tapestries, which realistically depict the dying Adonis, and listen to the hymn sung by a professional singer who had won a prize the previous year for her singing of dirges. The singer praises Adonis, and describes in detail the ritual cakes and the ‘gardens of Adonis’, or quick-growing seed plants in silver pots which will be taken, together with the image of Adonis, by the women on the next day to be thrown into the sea and lamented. She concludes with a farewell to Adonis until the following year, leaving the lady Gorgo to ponder, not on the importance of the ritual, but on returning home to prepare a meal for her irritable husband.
The Epitáphios for Adonis, attributed to Theokritos’ contemporary Bion, is different in that it was probably intended for actual performance on the second day of the Adónia. [3] It has the quality of a love song as well as that of a lament: the poet tells us how the rivers, trees, springs and mountains join his dirge for the fair Adonis, killed by a boar while hunting, and the cry to Adonis is echoed in refrain throughout the poem by the Loves. Kythereia herself utters a passionate farewell, varying the ritual custom of the mourner’s last greeting to the dead by asking Adonis for a final kiss before his lips are cold (42-50). At the end of the poem it is said that Hymenaios has quenched every marriage torch on the doorposts and has torn the bridal crown to shreds, changing his usual song to Hymen into a lament for Adonis (87-90).
Throughout antiquity the belief persisted that the cult of Adonis was associated with the ripening and harvesting of the fruit and flowers. The death of Adonis symbolised the cutting of the fruit and crops, his sojourn in Acheron their ripening underground. [4] If Adonis originated {56|57} in some kind of vegetation cult, it is likely that the laments sung for his death in the countryside were very different in character from the sophisticated and literary laments which have come down to us. Even so, his connection with flowers and young plants was remembered not only in the words of the lament, where it has an obvious poetic value, but in the details of the ritual: he was laid out on a bed strewn with flowers of every hue, and the ‘gardens of Adonis’ which accompanied his departure were seen as a symbol of his ephemeral life on earth. [5]
The cult can be traced back to eastern origins of extreme antiquity, and it survived at least until the fourth century A.D. After the advent of Christianity there was a tendency for Adonis' seasonal return to earth to be regarded as a mystic death and resurrection. The resulting confusion in popular imagination between Adonis and Christ may not have been discouraged by the Church fathers during the first centuries of our era. [6] But whatever changes the cult may have undergone, the fundamental and constant element of the lament was the refrain, ὦ τὸν Ἄδωνιν, which survived as long as the memory οf Adonis himself. This refrain, in Greek tradition personified into a young man who died a violent death and yet returned to earth, is thought to be Semitic in origin, meaning simply ‘Ah, lord!’ [7]
The history of Linos is not unlike that of Adonis, although it is rather more obscure and confused. Homer mentions the existence of a folk song called Linos, although it sounds more like a dance song than a lament, and Herodotos identifies the Linos song with a song common in Cyprus and Phoenicia, but also in Egypt, where it was known from earliest times, being the very first song the Egyptians sang and going under the name not of Linos but of Maneros, the son of the first Egyptian king, who died young and was mourned by his people ever afterwards. In fact, Maneros may also be a mistaken personification of the refrain 'Maa-ne-hra!', or 'Come to the house!’ [8] The Linos song is mentioned by Sappho and Pindar, and seems to have been developed as an art form in the sixth century, at the same time as the thrênos. [9]
Alongside the personified, mythical Linos and his cult song, there existed also the popular refrain αἴλινον, αἴλινον!, associated in tragedy both with the Oriental, barbaric cry of grief first uttered over the dead, and with the cry of victory. This divergence may reflect the dual nature of the cult and its ritual, death and return, lamentation and joy; if so, then the contradictory nature of the sources, some calling the aílinos a lament and others a folk song, would be explained. [10]
Related to Linos is the figure of Hymenaios. Known in Homer and {57|58} Hesiod as the nuptial hymn sung during the wedding procession, and in Sappho as a kind of bridal refrain, he is personified in a fragment of Pindar as the son of a Muse, brother of Linos and Ialemos, who, like them, died prematurely. [11] His nuptial hymn was, in one sense, the exact antithesis of the funeral songs associated with his brothers Linos and Ialemos; and yet the close connection between marriage and death, which has a long history in Greek tradition, is further borne out by Hymenaios' tragic intervention in so many funeral scenes in art and literature, where he quenches or reverses the marriage torches, and turns the wedding celebrations into funeral lamentation. [12]
Finally, according to the historian Polykrates, cited by Athenaios, in Laconia there was an annual festival to Hyakinthos and Apollo which lasted for three days. The first part was a period of mourning, devoted exclusively to Hyakinthos, who was killed by Apollo, probably accidentally. No garlands, bread or wine were brought to the banquets, and contrary to usual practice, the paean was not sung. But when the festivities to Apollo began on the second day, young boys played the lyre, sang to the accompaniment of the aulós, and danced in quick, anapaestic rhythm to express their praise of Apollo, while yet others performed, singing local songs to the accompaniment of dancers. The whole city, including the slaves, joined in the music, dancing, contests, procession and feasting (Ath. 139d-f). It was an annual festival which began with fasting and ritual lamentation, and ended in joyous feasting and ecstatic celebrations.

Lityerses, Bormos and Mariandynos

While mythology and literature have given to Adonis and Linos a separate lineage, identity and personality, Bormos and Lityerses appear to have existed mainly in local cults, frequently confused in ancient sources. The song for Lityerses was, according to one tradition, a comic version of the lament sung by the Black Sea people, the Mariandynoi, for Bormos, who is described by Athenaios as the son of a famous and wealthy man. In the prime of beauty and youth he disappeared while going to fetch water for the thirsty reapers, and has been invoked and lamented ever since by the Mariandynoi at harvest time. Another tradition has it that Tityos had two children, Priolas and Mariandynos, and that Mariandynos was killed while hunting. [13]
None of these figures has attracted much attention from the poets, but the annual lament sung by the Mariandynoi made a deep and lasting {58|59} impression. Aeschylus, in the Persians, refers to the Mariandynian mourner as particularly wild and ecstatic, and this is explained in two scholia with a quotation from the historian Kallistratos of the first century B.C., affirming that the popular lament of the Mariandynian aulós-players still continued in his own day (A. Pers. 935-40, cf. 937 Sch. (Α), 938 Sch. (Μ) = FHG 4.353). Its survival is independently confirmed by Nymphis (third century B.C.), cited by Athenaios (619-20). Traditions about the Mariandynoi are also found in various Byzantine sources, and the memory of their lament survived in the proverb Μαρυανδηδῶν μέμνησο θρηνητηρίων (Remember the Mariandynian mourners!), frequently quoted without reference to its Aeschylean context until at least the thirteenth century. [14]
Although the details vary, and there is considerable confusion in the ancient sources, there are certain significant features common to all these ritual laments. First, all appear to have originated in some kind of vegetation cult, in which the reaping of the corn or the harvesting of the vine, fruit and flowers was lamented. Gradually, this ancient tradition of eastern origins was transformed and diversified in Greek mythology and literature into a fully personified story, sometimes involving violent death during hunting. This alternative tradition, in which the young god or man was the victim of a wild boar, may be no less ancient, and perhaps reflects the destructive effects of hunting on a predominantly field economy. Nor was the theme a creative source for mythology only in the archaic and classical periods. Besides many variations on old themes, the Hellenistic poets were constantly elaborating new ones, such as the story of Hylas in Theokritos’ thirteenth Idyll, which is almost a replica of the story of Mariandynos. Although they became a pastoral convention, it is likely that many of the details of these stories were drawn not from imagination, but from the great diversity of local traditions. This is confirmed by the continued emphasis on the harvest associations of the ritual as it is known to have been practised by the people throughout antiquity. And one element of the primitive lament which was never forgotten or ignored, even in the most sophisticated literary compositions, was the refrain calling the dying man or god by name. This invocation was frequently expressed by the verb ἀνακαλεῖσθαι (to call upon, invoke). [15]
Second, there appears to be a connection between the development from relatively primitive to ordered musical forms, and the adaptation and refinement of an early Oriental type of lament. According to one tradition, [16] Linos was a primeval composer of thrênoi, at a time when several mythical figures invented and established new musical forms; {59|60} he, son of Ourania, was also mourned by all the singers and lyre players. [16a] In another tradition, from Argos, he was the son of Apollo and Psamathe, and his death was lamented antiphonally by groups of women and girls. In Thebes, he was a musician killed by Apollo for exciting his jealousy by his musical skill; while, according to Pindar, his memory was honoured in threnodic song. [17] Adonis, though not a musician himself, was mourned by Aphrodite and the Loves in an antiphonal lament. Of Mariandynos it is expressly stated 'that he developed particularly the singing to the aulós in lamentation, and that he taught this art to Hyagnis, father of Marsyas. There are in fact Mariandynian auloí specially suited to dirges, hence the current saying, “he plays on Mariandynian reeds”, when playing in the Ionian mode (A. Pers. 937 Sch. (A), ed. Dindorf 498-9). This tradition helps to explain why the memory of the Mariandynian lament lasted for so long. Further, although little is known of the kind of music associated with lamentation in antiquity, in all these types of lament the evidence is consistent in saying that it was performed to the shrill, high-pitched tone of the aulós (Ath. 174f-175b).
Third, both ritual and myth centre on the death and return, the káthodos and ánodos (descent and ascent) of the god. Leaving aside that controversial question of origins, the point here remains that the lament for death, frequently enacted by women weeping over images, is inseparable from the rejoicing for return, which is associated with fertility and the return of spring. It is possible that the connection between this lament and nature, which is imbedded in the ritual, explains the poetic convention of calling upon all nature to join in lamentation. Originally it belonged to the lament for the dying god, but whom nature mourned because without him it could not survive, but later it was extended to the lament for man as well.
Finally, although these laments appear to be of eastern origin, the personification into a fair youth killed prematurely is a characteristically Greek element. In myth and poetry alike great stress is laid on the you and beauty of the god, and on the wounds which only enhance his looks, even in death:
καὶ νέκυς ὢν καλός ἐστι, καλὸς νέκυς, οἶα καθεύδων.
Bion 1.71
He is beautiful even in death, in death he is beautiful, as one who sleeps. {60|61}

Lamentation in the hero cults and mysteries

In Herodotos’ account of the hero cult for Adrastos, as reformed by Kleisthenes of Sikyon, there is no explicit reference to a lament, but the ritual character of the tragic dances for Adrastos’ páthea (sufferings) is emphasised (Hdt. 5.67). Elsewhere, annual laments as part of heroes’ festivals were common: the Thebans lamented Leukothea, but were warned by Lykourgos that if she were a goddess, it was not right to mourn her as mortal; and if mortal it was not right to pay her divine honours. Achilles was mourned with beating of the breast and lamentation by the women of Kroton, Elis and Thessaly; and at Corinth there was an annual festival, known as 'the festival of mourning' for Medea's children, which included the same 'ritual and divine lament' as for Melikertes. Similarly the daughter of Klytias, king of Megara, who married a certain Bakchios of the royal clan of the Bakchiadai of Corinth, died at an early age, and so the Megarians were made to send their young men and girls to Corinth in order to mourn her. The thrênos was probably sung antiphonally, with one choir of boys and one of girls. [18]
Besides the hero cults, many of which continued throughout antiquity, lamentation is known to have played a part in the Dionysiac and Orphic tradition and in the Eleusinian and later mysteries. As early as the sixth century B.C. the tragic dances for Adrastos were transferred to Dionysos, and we are also told that Orpheus attached to the worship of Dionysos the singing of thrênoi. Not much is known about the nature of these laments in the classical period, but later Christian writers are more explicit. Clement, at the end of the second century A.D., describes the mystic drama at Eleusis about Demeter and Kore as it was performed in his own day, mentioning mourning as an important and integral part of it. Eusebios of Caesarea (fourth century A.D.) may have exaggerated some of the activities that went on during the mysteries in his account, but his mention of thrênoi, supported as it is by other evidence, cannot be dismissed. [19] But it is Firmicus Maternus, a converted Roman senator, whose vigorous attack on Oriental and other mystery cults, written in about A.D. 345, affords the most complete account of the mystic lamentation:
Nocte quadam simulacrum in lectica supinum ponitur et per numeros digestis fletibus plangitur; deinde cum se ficta lamentatione satiaverint, lumen infertur: tunc a sacerdote omnium qui flebant fauces unguentur, quibus perunctis sacerdos hoc lento murmure susurrat: {61|62}
Θαρρεῖτε μύσται τοῦ θεοῦ σεσωσμένου·
ἔσται γὰρ ἡμῖν ἐκ πόνων σωτηρία.

Take courage, initiates, for the god is saved,
and there shall be for us deliverance from sufferings!
de errore prof. relig. 22
This account may not be significant for our knowledge of lamentation in the mystery cults of antiquity, but it shows that in the fourth century A.D., at the dawn of the Byzantine period, there still survived a mystic, ritual lamentation over the image of a god, followed by the lighting of lamps and the joyful cry of salvation and deliverance from suffering.
The lament was therefore as important in religious and mystic ritual as it was in poetry and myth. Further, in the mysteries its associations with crop fertility became fused with the belief that it was a means of salvation and deliverance. The secret páthea made the mortal initiate into a god, as is affirmed in the following Orphic text inscribed on a gold tablet for burial with the dead (from Thurii in S. Italy, fourth to third centuries B.C.):
Χαῖρε, παθὼν τὸ πάθημα· τὸ δ’ οὔπω πρόσθε ἐπεπόνθεις,
Θεὸς ἐγένου ἐξ ἀνθρώπου.
Kern OF 32f. 3-4
Hail, you who have suffered the suffering, which you had not yet suffered before.
From man you have become god.
The descent of god or hero to the Underworld no longer symbolised only the burial of the crops underground, but a journey deliberately undertaken to combat Hades and save mankind from death. Finally, the grief of Demeter for Persephone, of mother for child, was a dominant element of the Eleusinian mysteries until the end of antiquity, ritually enacted at the women’s festivals.

The Virgin’s lament

The story of the Crucifixion as told in the Gospels ignores the lament of the Virgin. Only in the Gospel of Saint John are there to be found two not very explicit statements on which later laments appear to have been partly based. [20] Byzantine Greek tradition goes to the other extreme, sometimes focusing attention on the figure of the weeping Mother to the exclusion of Christ. The earliest example in {62|63} Greek which can be dated with certainty is Romanos’ kontákion, Mary at the Cross (early sixth century), in the form of a dramatic dialogue between Mary and Christ. Mary reacts to her son's theological arguments not as a woman who is divinely inspired, but as an ordinary woman of the people; and this characterisation is neither extraneous nor irrelevant, since it is through her gradual and painful realisation of the necessity of the Crucifixion that the dramatic tension is created and sustained.
What was Romanos’ source? One of the hymns of Synesios of Cyrene (c. A.D. 370-414) had treated the theme of Christ’s descent to the Underworld, but without reference to Mary (Hymns IX = Cantarella 34). The Church fathers had used the grief of Mary, as that of Sarah and Rachel, to illustrate an exemplary fortitude which the people would do well to emulate. On the other hand there seems to have been some precedent to Romanos’ treatment in Syriac liturgy, and more especially in the work of Ephraem (A.D. 306-73), one of whose homilies refers to Mary as ‘leaning her head against the cross, and murmuring in Hebrew words of lamentation and sorrow’. [21] The boldness of Romanos’ conception lies in his dramatic setting and in his use of dialogue: his Mary does not mourn her dead son at the foot of the cross, but laments and challenges his fate on the way to Calvary.
If Romanos’ kontákion was inspired partly by Syriac tradition, it certainly exercised a profound influence on later Greek liturgy. Some later tropária of the ninth century, attributed to the Emperor Leo VI, and known as Stavrotheotókia because their theme is the lament of the Mother of God at the Cross, share many similarities of detail with Romanos, although they are shorter and less dramatic in form. [22] Further, detaching the words from the music, a considerable number of verses fall easily into politikòs stíchos, the fifteen-syllable accentual verse of Greek folk poetry. [23] This suggests that from the ninth century at least there was some reciprocal influence between the liturgy and hymns for Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and the emerging songs of Byzantine popular tradition.
Five or six centuries later, after a modified form of the vernacular and the use of politikòs stíchos had become an established medium for poetry, we find probably the first extant example of the Virgin’s lament in the vernacular. Its author is unknown, but the number of manuscripts in which it has survived suggests a wide popularity and diffusion. The similarity of many motifs and phrases with the earlier Stavrotheotókia and with Romanos’ kontákion, together with the archaising tendency of the language, has led many scholars to believe that it {63|64} is a literary composition, put together from the hymns and the liturgy. [24] No doubt there was some degree of literary redaction, but on the other hand it is unlikely to be altogether dependent on literary sources, since several features of its style, notably the use of incremental repetition in groups of three, and traces of a refrain at key points in line, would seem to owe something to the techniques of oral poetry (Th rênos Theotókou 29-33, 65-6, 71-2). Further, the similarities could point to a common oral tradition rather than to literary interdependence; in either case, they indicate a gradual popularization kontákion, in which striking and memorable features lived on in a new form and in more popular language.
Meanwhile the figure of the weeping Virgin had not been ignored by Byzantine learned tradition. The question of the date and authorship of the Christian tragedy Christòs Páschon is still unsolved. Since the attribution of the manuscripts and the Suda to Gregory Nazianzen was first doubled in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, most the scholars have tended to support the view that it was written, not in the fourth to fifth centuries, but in the eleventh to twelfth. In his discussion of the problem Tuilier argues convincingly in favour of the work’s traditional attribution to Gregory. [25]
More important for the present study is the question of sources. Out of a total of 2,600 lines, 1,304 are taken from ancient tragedies known to us, mostly form seven plays of Euripides, but also from Aeschylus and Lykophron, Other sources include the Old and New Testaments and the apocryphal gospels and acts. It is easy to deride the play as a ridiculous hotchpotch of unsuitable tags, with Medea’s words lamenting the children she is about to kill put into the mouth of Mary weeping for Christ. But for all the slavish imitation of Euripides, and the deliberate attempt to compare Mary with Hekabe, there are signs of an influence of a different kind. First, there are several parallels to Romanos’ kontákion and to the Stav rotheotókia, including one passage so similar to Romanos’ opening strophe that they must be either interdependent, or taken from a common source. [26] Second, although Romanos' treatment of Mary is more convincing and more profound, several features in Christòs Páschon are undoubtedly more popular. These include Mary’s plea to Christ to manifest his divinity by rising from the dead, not in order to save mankind, as in Romanos, but to silence current slanders against her honour—slanders which are only hinted at in the Gospels, but which recur throughout the apocryphal gospels and acts. [27]
Then there is the theme of Mary’s despair and wish for suicide, and her complaint that if her son deserts her, she will be alone in the {64|65} world, without kin and without friends, a detail which is found in Symeon Metaphrastes' Planctus, written in learned prose during the tenth century, but also attributed to Nikephoros Basilakes (twelfth century), as well as in the vernacular Thrênos Theotókou. [28] Perhaps it is hardly surprising that the suicide wish was not developed in the kontákia, which tended to reflect more official Orthodox doctrine; but it has remained an important motif in many of the modern folk ballads, where it provokes the reply from Christ that if his Mother gives way to suicide and despair, there can be no salvation for the rest of the world—a point which Romanos and later hymn writers do not omit to elaborate at some length (Romanos 19.6-9, MMB 5.180.11).
Finally there is the Virgin's curse. In the Christòs Páschon it lasts for eighty-one lines, containing, in addition to the Euripidean echoes, a hesitation formula comparable to one used to introduce a curse in folk poetry today. [29] Mary makes no curses in Romanos’ kontákion, or in the other Byzantine laments; but in the modern ballads, on hearing the news, she hurries to the site of the Crucifixion, not omitting to call on the way at the house of the gipsy nail-maker, who made the nails to pierce Christ's body, and utters a curse that he should never make good, and never have a house and hearth (DIEE (1892) 722γ). In other versions she curses Judas and the whole race of Jews as well (Laog (1934) 252.90-1, cf. 255.72-6). Outside the Christòs Páschon, this theme is developed only in popular tradition.
One of the finest examples of the Virgin's lament in Byzantine homiletic tradition is Symeon Metaphrastes’ Planctus of the tenth century, already referred to. It is too rigidly structured in the rhetorical style to move us as deeply as Romanos’ kontákion; yet it contains much rich and evocative imagery, emphasising above all the physical beauty and youth of Christ (Migne 114.209-18). This theme, ignored in the kontákia and Stavrotheotókia but frequent in the Christòs Páschon and in the modern ballads, suggests that it would be a mistake to draw too fine a distinction between the learned and popular traditions.
Little is known about the date and authorship of the Epitáphios Thrênos, part of the liturgy still performed on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, except that it was in existence by the fourteenth century. Much of its content can be paralleled in Symeon Metaphrastes’ Planctus and in the Stavrotheotókia. [30] It is punctuated throughout with references to the weeping Mother, so that although only parts of the lament are spoken by her, she, rather than Christ, is the central figure. Above all, it is pervaded with imagery more striking than any to be found in earlier laments. It is extravagant, but not lacking in structure, since it {65|66} is concentrated on specific themes, such as the antithesis of life and death, god and man, man and nature. It also elaborates richly the Christian symbolism of sun and moon. Christ, the sun and prime source of light, life and righteousness, has descended to Hades, shedding his light beneath the earth, and depriving the earth and the moon, his mother, of light: [31]
Δύνεις ὑπὸ γῆν, Σῶτερ, ἥλιε τῆς δικαιοσύνης∙ ὅθεν ἡ τεκοῦσα σελήνη σε ταῖς λύπαις ἐκλείπει, σῆς θέας στερουμένη.
Stasis 2.25
You set beneath the earth, Saviour, sun of righteousness, whence the moon which gave you birth fades away in sorrow, deprived of the sight of you.
Ὑπὸ γῆν ἐκρύβης, ὥσπερ ἥλιος, νῦν καὶ νυκτὶ τῇ τοῦ θανάτου κεκάλυψαι, ἀλλ’ ἀνάτειλον φαιδρότερον, Σωτήρ.
Stasis 1.30
Beneath the earth you have set, like the sun. Now you are veiled even by the night of death; yet rise more brightly, Saviour.
Νέκρωσιν τὴν σήν, ἡ πανάφθορος, Χριστέ, σοῦ μήτηρ, βλέπουσα, πικρῶς σοι ἐφθέγγετο· Μή βραδύνῃς, ἡ ζωή, ἐν τοῖς νεκροῖς.
Stasis 2.54
Beholding your death, Christ, your incorruptible mother cried out bitterly to you, Do not linger, life, among the dead.’
This Christian imagery of light and darkness is remarkably close to the imagery of the modern folk laments, where light has connotations not only of the divine wisdom and knowledge of God, but also of the vigorous health and beauty of life, as in the following tersely expressive couplet on the death of an only son:
Ἤλιε μου, πῶς ἐβιάστηκες νὰ πᾶς νὰ βασιλέψης,
ν᾽ ἁφήσης τὸ σπιτάκι σου κι ἀλλοῦ νὰ πᾶς νὰ φέξης;
Politis 194
My sun, how is it that you hastened to go and set,
to leave your home and shed your light elsewhere?
In the Epitáphios, the associations of this theme are elaborated in verses which dwell, almost erotically, on Christ's youth and beauty even in death. Just as Aphrodite and the Loves had mourned for Adonis in {66|67} Bion’s Epitáphios, so here Mary and the ‘chorus’ sing, adapting the words of Psalm 46.3:
Ὁ ὡραῖος κάλλει παρὰ πάντας βροτοὺς ὡς ἀνείδεος νεκρὸς καταφαίνεται, ὁ τὴν φύσιν ὡραΐσας τοῦ παντός.
Stasis 1.8
He who is fair in beauty beyond all mortals looks like a corpse without form, he who gave beauty to the nature of the Universe.
And Joseph asks:
Ὄ τὸ γλυκὺ καὶ τὰ χείλη σου πῶς μύσω, Λόγε;
Stasis 2.23
How shall I close your sweet eye and your lips, Word?
Romanos’ Ewe mourning the Lamb of God as he is led to the slaughter (1.1-2) has here become the more classical, and yet at the same time more popular, heifer lamenting her lost calf, her wild cry emphasised by the use of ἠλάλαξεν: [32]
Ἡ δάμαλις τὸν μόσχον, ἐν ξύλῳ κρεμασθέντα, ἠλάλαξεν ὁρῶσα.
Stasis 3.27
The heifer, seeing her calf which had been hanged on the Cross, wailed in grief.
Again, just as Aphrodite had called on the mountains, valleys and streams to join her lament for Adonis, so here Mary says:
Ὦ βουνοὶ καὶ νάπαι καὶ ἀνθρώπων πληθύς, κλαύσατε καὶ πάντα θρηνήσατε σὺν ἐμοὶ τῇ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν Μητρί.
Stasis 1.68
O you mountains and valleys and host of men, weep, all things lament with me, the Mother of our God!
Then comes the thrilling climax during the final section of praises, Áxion Estí:
Ὕπτιον ὁρῶσα, ἡ πάναγνός σε, Λόγε, μητροπρεπῶς ἐθρήνει∙ Ὦ γλυκύ μου ἔαρ, γλυκύτατόν μου τέκνον, ποῦ ἔδυ σου τὸ κάλλος;
Stasis 3.16
Beholding you stretched out, Word, the all-holy one lamented as befits a mother, ‘O my sweet spring, my sweetest child, where has your beauty set?'
These lines reflect a feeling closer in tone than anything else so far {67|68} examined in Byzantine tradition to the ancient belief that nature, too, participated in the lament for the dying god: in both, the god and the lost spring are identified.
What, then, are the sources and inspiration of the Epitáphios? Although some of its features can be paralleled in the earlier hymns, stylistically it is closer to Symeon Metaphrastes’ Planctus than to Romanos’ kontákion or to the Christòs Páschon. At the same time, in its obsessive concern with the weeping mother and the beauty of the dying son, its closest affinities are with the ancient laments for Adonis. Deliberate imitation may, of course, be excluded. The popular style and tone of the Epitáphios suggest that many simple but fundamental associations of the ancient ritual lament for the dying god had not been forgotten, and had reemerged to influence the liturgy and become incorporated into the Good Friday service.
Confirmation of the popular character of the Virgin's lament in late Byzantine tradition comes from the second recension of the apocryphal gospels of Nikodemos, known as the Acta Pilati, and surviving in three manuscripts, non earlier than the fifteenth century. [33] All three manuscripts of this recension contain the lament—though with considerable variation and interpolation—which refers explicitly to its ritual character, ‘And saying these words she scratched her face with her nails and beat her breast’ (Tischendorf 283). The apocryphal lament constitutes a remarkable link between some of the earlier Byzantine material and modern folk tradition. It has some stylistic affinities with the Epitáphios and the vernacular Thrênos Theotókou; [34] but in the sequence and detail of the narrative, it is closest of all to the modern ballads. The most probable explanation is that the Epitáphios, the apocryphal lament and the modern ballads were drawing on a common tradition, the Epitáphios elaborating the lyrical elements and the ballads concentrating on the narrative. It is not possible to date this common tradition precisely, but it must have been well established and widely known by the time the second recension of the Acta Pilati was written down. The absence of the lament from the Latin versions of the Acta Pilati, which were probably based on the earlier recension of the fifth century, is indicative of the traditional character of the Virgin’s lament in Greek. It is also essentially different from the Stabat Mater of medieval Latin tradition, where great emphasis is given to the Virgin’s patience and fortitude. [35] No such lesson can be drawn from the Greek Virgin, whose grief is so violent that she has to be pushed aside: {68|69}
And when she revived and arose, running like a lioness from a field and rending her garments, she looked askance at the Jews … saying ‘Give me a path, men, for me to walk and embrace the neck of my lamb; give way to me, men, that I may weep for my dearest son, the lamb of my soul; give way to me, men, that I may reach him who was fed on the milk of my breasts (?); give way to me, that I may behold and lament my sweetest son.’ And beating her breast she cried out, saying ‘Alas, alas, sweetest son, light of my eyes, king of all things. Alas, alas, how can I bear to behold you hanging on the Cross? …’ (MS C, Tischendorf 282-3.) ‘Where have they gone’, said she, ‘the good deeds which you did in Judea? What evil have you done to the Jews?’ So then the Jews who saw her lamenting and crying out came and drove her out of the way. But she could not be persuaded to leave, and remained there, saying ‘Slay me first, lawless Jews.’ (MSS A, B, C, Tischendorf 283.)
If the Virgin's lament had always existed in Greek tradition, and if it is true that it had absorbed certain features of the ancient laments for gods and heroes, then we should expect the modern ballads to bear some trace of their long oral history. It is notoriously difficult to date elements in oral poetry, because old themes and old stories are subject to constant variation and remoulding. But there are, as I hope to show, a sufficient number of indisputably ancient features, some of which are not found elsewhere, to establish that the modern ballads have a long history of their own. At the same time, the features which they share with the Byzantine laments indicate that, ultimately, they belong to the same tradition.
What, then, are the common features, and what are the main differences between the modern ballads and the earlier laments? The term ballad, as opposed to lament, is more appropriate to the modern songs in that they tell a story, which contains lamentation, but they are not addressed to the dead Christ in their entirety. They belong to the epic and dramatic rather than to the lyrical or functional songs.
These ballads have survived in fundamentally the same form, though with considerable local variation, from all parts of the Greek-speaking world—from Calabria in South Italy, from the Pontos, Asia Minor, Cyprus, Crete, the Dodecanese, the Ionian Isles, and from most regions of mainland Greece. [36] {69|70}
First, the common features. The Cypriot Song for Good Friday, related to an Asia Minor version probably dating from the fifteenth century, opens with a demand for universal lamentation in sympathy with Mary, who has lost her only son, just as in the opening lines of Romanos’ kontákion and the Stavrotheotókia (Sakellarios 2.84, 28, 1-3). As in the Christòs Páschon, Mary then calls on all the women to lament with her (ibid. 7-8, cf. CP 686-7). In modern tradition, this has an important ritual meaning, since until recently it was customary for all the women of the village to take part in the dressing and decoration of the Epitáphios, and to keep constant vigil over it throughout the night. Mrs Stamatopoulou, aged 86, from Sklithron informed me in 1962 that in her youth all the women, young and old, took part in the vigil, whereas now only a few do so. Mary then recalls the Annunciation, and thinks in anger of the betrayal of Judas. Christ interrupts her outburst with an appeal to her not to give way to excessive grief. [37] Next come Mary’s despair and wish for death found in the Christòs Páschon, the homilies and the apocryphal lament; and, in close association, the theme of her recurrent swooning (three times in one ballad). [38] Outside oral tradition, the swoon is found in Greek only in the apocryphal lament, thereby establishing a strong link between them. The significance of the despair, suicide wish and swoon in the ballads can be measured by the fact that in spite of local variations, these three motifs are never omitted. In answer to the rebuke from Christ which they provoke, she replies, as in the Christòs Páschon, Symeon Metaphrastes’ Planctus, and the Byzantine vernacular Thrênos Theotókou, that her lament is justified by her deprivation of her only son. She then praises her son’s beauty, in a line similar to the liturgy, and expresses a desire to kiss him, another motif found only in the Christòs Páschon and the apocryphal lament: [39]
Γιόκα μου, ποῦ εἶν᾽τὰ κάλλη σου, ποῦ εἶν᾽ ἡ ὀμορφιά σου;
Γιὰ σκύψε, γιόκα μου, γλυκὰ νὰ σὲ φιλήσω,
νὰ βγάλω τὴν μπροστέλλα μου, τὸ αἷμα σ᾽ νὰ σφογγίσω.
Laog (1934) 252.111-13
My son, where are your fine looks, where is your beauty?
Bend down, my son, bend down, that I may kiss you sweetly,
and with my apron wipe away your blood.
Finally, all nature joins in sympathy to mourn the death of Christ. Most ballads open with the line, reminiscent of Romanos’ kontákion On the Passion (Maas-Trypanis 20): {70|71}
Σήμερα μαῦρος οὐρανός, σήμερα μαύρη μέρα …
Baud-Bovy 2.248,1
Today the sky is black, today the day is black …
In a version from Selybria in Thrace, Mary rises from her prayers on the fatal morning to see portentous signs in the heavens: [40]
Βλέπει τὸν οὐρανὸ θαμπὸ καὶ τ’ ἄστρα φουρκωμένα
καὶ τὸ φεγγάρι τὸ λαμπρὸ στὸ αἷμα βουτημένο.
— Τί ἔχεις, ἥλιε, κι εἶσαι θαμπός; ἀστρί μου, φουρκωμένο;
καὶ σύ, φεγγάρι μου λαμπρό, στὸ αἷμα βουτημένο;
Laog (1934) 251.57-60
She sees the sky overcast and the stars dimmed by cloud,
she sees the bright moon drenched in blood.
— What is it, sun, that you are overcast? My star, why are you dim?
And you, my bright moon, why are you drenched in blood?
One idea, fundamental to the Virgin's lament, is interpreted so differently in Byzantine and modern tradition as to be quite distinct. In Greek tradition, both iconographic and literary, the purpose of the Crucifixion was Christ’s descent to the Underworld and his victory over Hades. In Romanos’ kontákion, as in other Byzantine laments, Christ explains at length to his Mother that he must die in order to save mankind from the curse of Adam, who sinned willingly. She cannot understand why man’s salvation should require his death, and he replies, with a note of impatience, that it is not physical but spiritual salvation that must be won (19.9, 1-6). This essential point of theology is forgotten in the modern ballads, where Christ replies to her threat that she will throw herself over a cliff or hang herself, that if she despairs and kills herself, the whole world will follow suit. Instead, she is to return home, prepare the wine and rusk for the paregoriá (funeral feast), so that the whole world may partake of it, thereby uniting mother and child, brother and sister, husband and wife (Laog (1934) 252.120-8, cf. 256-7.98-115 and n. 5). Many of the women who sang these lines expressed the opinion that the custom of preparing paregoriá for their own dead originated here, but of course the truth is just the opposite: the ritual feast is an independent, pagan survival, which has become assimilated into Christianity. In the folk tradition the significance of the Resurrection lies not so much in the redemption of Adam’s sins, but in the liberation of the dead from their miseries in Hades. This is often understood quite literally, not as a symbolic {71|72} reference to Judgement Day, since it is believed that on Holy Thursday the souls of the dead are freed, and return to celebrate the Resurrection with their families. [41] In popular tradition, Christ's descent to the Underworld still fulfils the same function as the descent of Herakles, Orpheus or Apollo in antiquity.
Yet other features in the ballads, which are not present in the earlier laments, are believed to have originated in the Gospels, short extracts of which are read out in church services during Holy Week. Christ’s last words to Mary in the Gospel of Saint John, ‘Woman, behold thy son!’, meaning that John will become her spiritual son and she his spiritual mother (John 19.26–7), are interpreted more concretely in the ballads: before dying, Christ instructs John (sometimes confused with John the Baptist) to take the news to his mother, who arrives at the scene in a state of bewilderment, and fails to recognise her son:
Κι ἡ Παναγία μπρόβαλεν στὴν ἀμπατήν τῆς πόρτας·
Θωρᾶ λαὸν ἀμέτρητον, θωρᾶ πολὺν ἀσκέρι
καὶ δὲν ἐγνώρισεν κανεὶ μόνον τὸν ἅι Γιάννη.
— Ἁγιέ μου Γιάννη ἀφέντη μου καὶ βαφτιστὴ τοῦ γιοῦ μου,
δεῖξε με τὸν ἐγέννησα καὶ δὲν τὸν ἐγνωρίζω.
— Θωρᾶς ἐκεῖνον τὸν χλωμὸν καὶ τὸν πολλοδαρμένον;
ὁποὺ κρατεῖ στὸ χέριν του μαντήλιν ματωμένο;
ὁποὺ κρατεῖ καὶ στ’ ἄλλο του μαλλιὰ τῆς κεφαλῆς του;
Ἐκεῖνος εἶν᾽ ὁ γιόκας σου κι ἐμέν’ ὁ δάσκαλός μου.
DIEE (1892) 722γ
And our Lady came out and stood in the doorway.
She sees countless people, she sees a great throng,
and she knew no one except for Saint John.
— Saint John, my master and baptist of my son,
show me the son I bore, for I do not recognise him.
— You see that pale and much-beaten man,
who carried in one hand a blood-stained handkerchief,
who carries in the other hair from his head?
That man is your son and my teacher.
This dramatic treatment of events is thought by Romaios to be based on a misinterpretation of the Gospels. [42] If so, the misinterpretation has a long history, since precisely the same sequence is found in the Acta Pilati, where Mary’s question and John’s reply are later balanced by Christ’s address to his Mother, as in the Gospel: {72|73}
So when they reached the throng of people, the Mother of God said to John, ‘Where is my son?’ John said ‘Do you see him who wears the crown of thorns, and has his hands bound?’ When the Mother of God heard this and saw him, she fell into a faint, falling backwards to the ground, and lay there for some time. (Tischendorf 282.) Then the Mother of God, as she stood and saw, cried out in a loud voice, saying ‘My son, my son.’ And Jesus turned to her, and seeing John beside her, weeping with the rest of the women, he said ‘Behold, thy son.’ Then he said also to John ‘Behold, thy mother.’ (Ibid. 284-5.)
John's message, the Virgin's swoon, the company of women, the bewildering crowd of people, her anxious question and the second swoon—all are found in the ballads from many parts of Greece. It is not a misinterpretation of the Gospel, but a characteristic example of the way in which oral tradition rehandles the same episodes and motifs in a more leisurely, yet inherently more dramatic manner. It is the same with the nails which are made for Christ’s body, whereas the Gospel mentions a spear, the ballads refer to a gipsy nail-maker, who says that he is going to make five nails (John 19.33—4, cf. DIEE (1892) 722γ).
Let us turn now to those features of the ballads which are not to be found in Byzantine tradition, or in the biblical sources, an which point to a long period of oral transmission. First, there is the strange metamorphosis of Christ after Judas’ betrayal, when the Jews arrive to seize him. In one of the versions from Thrace, Judas, true to his promise, takes the Jews to where Christ is sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane. Seeing them approach, Christ invites them to eat and drink with him, in a formula which has sinister echoes of Digenis’ invitation to Charos in the Akritic ballads. Like Charos, the Jews reply:
— Ἐμεῖς ἐδῶ δὲν ἤλθαμε νὰ φᾶμε καὶ νὰ πιοῦμε,
μόνον σᾶς ἀγαπούσαμε κι ἤλθαμε νὰ σᾶς δοῦμε …
— Αὐτὸς εἶναι καὶ πιάστε τον, γλήγορα μὴ σᾶς φύγη
Ὁ Χριστὸς σὰν τ’ ἄκουσε, πολὺ βαρὺ τὸν ἦλθε
πέντε λογιοῦ ἐγένηκε νὰ μὴν τὸν ἐγνωρίσουν.
Ἄλλοι τὸν βλέπουν σὰν μωρὸ καὶ ἄλλ᾽ τὸν βλέπουν γέρο,
καὶ πάλι τὸν ἐγνώρισαν.
Ἀπ᾽ τὰ μαλλιὰ τὸν πιάσανε, στὰ μάρμαρα τὸν κροῦσαν.
Laog (1934) 250.37-8, 41-6 {73|74}
(Jews) — We have not come here to eat and drink,
we only came to see you because we loved you …
(Judas) — That is the man, seize him quickly before he escapes you.
When Christ heard these words he was vexed and grieved.
He became five different shapes so that they should not know him.
Some saw him as a baby, others as an old man, and again they recognised him.
They seized him by the hair, and threw him on the marble.
Its antiquity in local tradition is confirmed by a folk story with yet another variation: when the Jews chased Christ on Maundy Thursday, he turned into a small child and hid in the basket of a passing Arab girl, who refused to give him away when asked if she had seen ‘the son of Mary, the magician’; in return for her kindness, Christ turned the hay in her basket into rare herbs, and however much she carried, her head never ached again. The story may have developed from a detail in the apocryphal Acta Pilati, where one of the accusations brought against Christ was that he was a magician (Laog (1934) 250 n.3, cf. Tischendorf 270).
Second, there is the theme of the Virgin’s bath. Mary Magdalene, who brings the news of the Crucifixion, finds Mary in her bath, and calls out accusingly:
— You, our Lady, are washing in a silver bath,
you, our Lady, are combing your hair with an ivory comb,
while Christ has been seized and is being tortured by the Jews.
Laog (1934) 255.48-50
It may be assumed, as has been suggested, that this motif has crept in from similar theme in the Akritic cycle, as an extension of the swoon motif, after which the women revive Mary with somewhat excessive quantities of water (varying in different versions from one to sixty-two jars!), with the detail of the combing added later. If so, it should be stressed that the versions which portray her praying when the news is brought. [43] Again, it is the inevitable process of oral variation, in which themes, old and new, are introduced from other songs, not irrelevantly, but with deliberate effect, as in the Thracian version of the conversation between the Jews and Christ quoted above, which contains undertones of the grim dialogue between Charos and Digenis Akritas. {74|75}
The third and most curious motif of all is that of ‘Saint Kalé’. She does not appear in all versions, and her identity is rarely the same: sometimes she is a saint, sometimes an ordinary woman, and sometimes even Mary’s cousin. [44] Her behaviour in the following ballad from Asia Minor is hardly characteristic of a saint, any more than is Mary’s answering curse:
Ἡ Ἁγιὰ Καλὴ ἠπέρασε άπ’ ὄξω καὶ τσῆ λέγει·
— Ποιὸς εἶδε γιὸ εἰς τὸ σταυρὸ καὶ μάνα στὸ τραπέζι;
Ἡ Δέσποινα σὰν τ’ ἄκουσε πέφτει, λιγοθυμάει.
Σταμιὰ νερὸ τὴν περνχοῦ καὶ πέντε βάζοι μόσχοι
κι ἀπόντας ἠσεφέρνσε αὺτὸ τὸ λόγο λέγει∙
— Ἄντε κι ἐσύ, Ἁγιὰ Καλή, καὶ δόξα νὰ μὴν ἔχης,
ἄντε ποὺ νὰ σὲ χτίνσουνε ἀνάμεσα πελάους,
οὔτε παπὰς νὰ λειτουργᾶ, διάκος νὰ μὴ σὲ ψέλνη,
οὔτε κερὶ καὶ λίβανο μὴν κάνη ἐμπροστά σου.
Νὰ γίνης μάντρα τῶν ἀρνιῶν καὶ μάντρα τῶν προβάτων,
κι ἀπάνω στὰ καμπαναριὰ κοράκοι νὰ κοιτάζουν.
MCh (1948) 217.93-102
Saint Kalé passed by outside and called to her,
— Who ever saw a son at the Cross, and his mother at the table?
When our Lady heard this, she fell into a faint.
They pour on her a jug of water, and five jars of musk,
and when she had recovered, she spoke these words:
— Away with you, Saint Kale, and may you have no glory.
Away, and may they build for you a church out in the oceans,
that neither priest may chant a liturgy nor deacon sing a psalm for you,
that neither candle nor incense be brought before you.
Instead, may you become a pen for lambs, a pen for sheep,
and may the crows on the bell towers look down upon you!
Who is Saint Kalé? None other than Kyrà Kalé (the lady Kalé), a survival of the cult title of Ártemis Kalliste, whose many transformations may be traced through the byways of ancient traditions and modern folklore—from Ino or Leukothea, referred to in the Odyssey and supposed to be identical with Kalé (5.333-34), to Kalé, [44a] the leader of the Nereids, associated with the Virgin and Saint John in some spells for the healing of sheep, [44b] to Kalé, the daughter or sister of Alexander the Great, who drank by mistake the water of life intended for him and so leapt into the sea to become a Nereid (a story preserved in folklore and in a later manuscript of Recension B of the {75|76} Life of Alexander, ed. Bergson 2.41, cf. Politis Paradóseis 651-2), and finally to Καλή τῶν Ὀρεῶν (Kalé of the Mountains) of Byzantine and modern tradition, transformed in Cyprus to Καλή τῶν Ὀβκῶν (Kalé of the Jews), mistress of magic and of evil spirits. This last may not be just a mistake, but a parallel survival of ancient Kalliste, who was Hekate herself as well as a nymph. [45]
Kalé, then, is an ancient figure of pagan origin who has survived in diverse forms, always magic and not infrequently evil, and hence grafted on to the concept of the wickedness of the Jews and their responsibility for the Crucifixion. Her presence in the ballads, where all the old pagan associations are implicit, is proof both of the independence and of the antiquity of their oral transmission. It only remains to explain how she came to be connected with the Virgin.
First, the Virgin’s biblical associations are frequently overlaid in Greek folklore by the more familiar background of Nereids and mountain creatures. In one tradition from Alikokkos, an old suburb of Athens, she was known as Panagía Trístratos (our Lady of the crossways), like ancient Hekate, and her ghost could sometimes be seen coming out of her church to sit and weep at the crossways, as a sign that one of her parishioners was about to die (Politis Paradóseis 512).
Further, a recurrent theme in the folk stories and the folk songs is that of weeping maidens, mothers and Nereids. Besides Kalé and the Nereids who wept for Alexander the Great, there were the three columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, who distributed the sleeping city at night by weeping for their lost sister, hacked down by a Turk in 1759 for a new mosque (Paradóseis 135); there were the five marble Daughters of the Fortress, as Karyatids of Erechtheion were known, who wept so bitterly for their sister snatched away by ‘my Lord’ that they frightened away the Turk, who returned at night to steal them as well (ibid. 136); finally, there was the old woman in a lonely house who, when awakened at midnight by the Nereids as the they brought in a dead man and began a ritual lament for him, did not hesitate to join their lamentation, and was laid out covered in silver (ibid. 803). These, and many similar stories, prove that until the nineteenth century there survived in Greek folklore a rich and creative use of an old theme. [46] They also help to explain why the figure of the weeping Virgin made such a deep and lasting impression in Greek tradition.
Besides Mary weeping for Christ, there is the tradition of a lament for Isaac, spoken by Abraham or Sarah before the sacrifice, which can {76|77} be traced back to the homilies of the Church fathers and to Romanos. [47] The seventeenth-century Cretan play, The Sacrifice of Abraham, differs from its Italian model, Groto’s Lo Isach, in its treatment of Sarah, whose many laments for Isaac are at times so close to folk poetry that many formulae, themes and couplets can be paralelled in the Cretan laments today. [48] To argue which came first, the drama or the folk laments, is to miss the essential point of close reciprocity between literary and folk poetry, which has determined also the development of the Virgin's lament. The immediacy of the Virgin’s lament to the mourner of today is illustrated by a fine couplet from Nisyros, in which a bereaved mother begs the Virgin to give her fortitude:
Δός μου καὶ μέναν, Παναγιά, (ν)ἀφ’ τὴν ὑπομονή σου,
ὁποὺ τὴν ἔκαμες καὶ σὺ (ν)εἰς τὸ Μονογενῆ σου.
Baud-Bovy 2.165
Grant to me, our Lady, of the endurance
which you showed for your only son.
Finally, the antiquity of the Virgin’s lament is confirmed by some of the details of the ritual of which it is still an integral part. On the morning of Good Friday, women and girls gather in the church to decorate the Epitáphios, in which is laid a gold-embroidered likeness of the dead Christ. They weave garlands of spring flowers—violets, lilies, roses and lemon blossom—singing the Virgin’s lament. All day long the villagers come to the church to kneel beside the Epitáphios; and when evening falls, it is taken in slow procession around the streets by the people, each carrying a lighted candle, to the accompaniment of the tolling of the bells. During the procession, women place outside the windows of their homes icons, lighted candles; and in Thrace, shallow dishes of quick-growing seeds are prepared, not unlike the ‘gardens of Adonis’ placed round the eídolon of Adonis in antiquity. [49] The lamentation and vigil over the Epitáphios are kept up until midnight on Holy Saturday, the lament being sung usually by women, but in Thrace performed antiphonally by twelve girls on one side and twelve boys on the other. The Resurrection on the third day is welcomed in the church with joyful shouts of ‘Christ is risen!’ and with a sudden blaze of light, as the candles of the congregation are lighted one by one.
Details of the ritual which can be paralleled in antiquity include the prominence of the women, who decorate and then lament over an image, the use of spring flowers and quick-growing seeds, the torchlight procession, and the final scene of joy and light on the third day. {77|78} To the peasant, the Resurrection still signals the liberation of both dead and living from their miseries and the return of spring—and it is sometimes believed to ensure the safety of the year’s crops. [50]

Leidinos and Zafeiris

The association with nature in the Virgin’s lament for Christ is implicit in much of the poetic imagery and in some of the details of the Easter ritual. But in the seasonal festivals ritually enacted in many parts of Greece for the death and return of a youth, it is both explicit and important. The name of the youth, the time of year of the celebration, and the details of the lament and ritual, vary considerably; but in all, the function of the ritual is similar.
In the village of Chalasméni in Aigina, on 14 September (the Feats of the Cross), an image of a young man called Leidinos is made out of cloth, straw and chaff. It is laid out and decorated with flowers, among which the most prominent is the Leidinos-flower, said to have first flowered on the grave of the dead Leidinos. It is then mourned and taken round the village streets in solemn procession, and laid down in the market-place. ‘Incense’, in the form of animal dung, is burnt over it, and kóllyra are handed round to all present as for the dead. The ritual used to be exclusive to the women; now it is prepared by the women and enacted by the children. [51]
Leidinos is a personified, dialect form of deilinós, which means supper. According to one local tradition, he was the youngest of three sons born to Hunger—Kolatsó (Snack), Yéma (Lunch) and Leidinós (Supper). When he was only three days old he was so puny that the Fates condemned him to live and support mankind for only half the year, the working half, and for the remaining half to hibernate underground. His festival coincides exactly with the end of the summer season, when labour contracts expire, and with them the summer habits of an afternoon rest and an evening meal, both known in Aigina as leidinós. [52]
Whether this neat, aetiological explanation is in fact the oldest one is to be doubted when we consider the words of the lament sung for him:
Λειδινέ μου, Λεδινέ μου,
τσαὶ κλησαρωμένε μου,
ὅπου σὲ κλησαρώσανε μὲ τὴ ψιλὴ κλησάρα
τσαὶ ὅπου σὲ περνούσανε ἀφ᾽ τὴν ἁγιὰ Βαρβάρα
Λειδινέ μου, Λειδινέ μου. {78|79}

Φεύγεις, πάεις, Λειδινέ μου,
τσ ἐμᾶς ἀφήνεις κρύους,
πεινασμένους, διψασμένους
τσ’ ὄχι λίγο μαραμένους.
Λειδινέ μου, Λειδινέ μου.

Πάλι θἄρθης, Λειδινέ μου,
μὲ τοῦ Μάρτη τὶς δροσές,
μὲ τ’ ’Απρίλη τὰ λουλούδια
τσαὶ τοῦ Μάη τὶς δουλειές.
Λειδινέ μου, Λειδινέ μου.

Ἦρθ’ ἡ ὥρα νὰ μᾶς φύγης,
πάαινε εἰς τὸ καλὸ,
τσαὶ μὲ τὸ καλὸ νὰ ἔρθης
τσ’ ὅλους νὰ μᾶς βρῆς γερούς.
Λειδινέ μου, Λειδινέ μου
τσαὶ κλησαρωμένε μου.
Kyriakidis EL 36-7
My Leidinos, my Leidinos,
you who have been well sifted,
sifted by the finest sieve,
you who have been taken round by Saint Barbara.
My Leidinos, my Leidinos.

You are going, you are leaving, my Leidinos,
and you leave us cold,
hungry, thirsty,
and not a little shrivelled.
My Leidinos, my Leidinos.

You will return, my Leidinos,
with the dews of March,
with the flowers of April,
and with the labours of May.
My Leidinos, my Leidinos.

The time has come for you to leave us,
go with our blessing,
and may you return again
to find us in good health.
My Leidinos, my Leidinos,
you who have been well sifted. {79|80}
Leidinos is here revealed as the spirit of vegetation, who withers and dies at the approach of winter and is invoked in the refrain to return in the spring. The tradition referred to above shows the same tendency to personify and rationalise the event as was apparent in the ancient cults. And whatever his origins, as he is now celebrated in Aigina he is in the process of merging with the Christian festival of the Cross. In other parts of Greece the lamented figure has disappeared, ut e ritual has survived in the custom of sowing seeds in the ground on the Feast of the Cross, in order to ensure the return of spring and fertility. [53]
A festival from the village of Zagori in Epiros celebrates Zafeiris, who symbolises the death and return of spring. In early May, the women and children go to the fields. One of the boys lies down on the grass as if dead, while the girls strew him with flowers and mourn him with an ecstatic lament, known not as nioirológi, but as kommós. Its passionate, lyrical character contrasts sharply with the scoptic tone of the song for Leidinos:
Γιὰ ἰδέστε νιὸν ποὺ ξάπλωσα See the young man I have laid out
— φίδια ποὺ μ’ ἔφαγαν — —snakes that have eaten me —
γιὰ ἰδέστε κυπαρίσσι, see the cypress tree,
— ίώ, ἴ! —ió, í!
δὲ σειέται, δὲ λυΐζεται he does not move, he does not sway,
— κόσμε μ’, σκοτῶστε με— —kill me, my people—
δὲ σέρν᾽ τὴ λεβεντιά του. he does not step forth with gallant youth.
— ιώ, ἴ! —ió, í!
Ποιὸς σὄκοψε τὶς ρίζες σου Who has cut your roots
— ἄχου, ψυχούλα μου — —áchou, my soul —
καὶ στέγνωσ᾽ ἡ κορφή σου; and dried your topmost branches?
— ίώ, ἴ! —ió, í!
Τἰ μὄκάνες, λεβέντη μου, What have you done to me, my brave one,
—φίδια ποὺ μ’ ἔφαγαν — —snakes that have eaten me —
τί μὄκανες, ψυχή μου! what have you done, my soul!
—ιώ, ἴ! —ió, í!
Μήνα ’ναι καὶ χινόπωρος Do you think it is autumn
—ἀλήθεια λέω ’γώ — —it is the truth I am telling—
μήνα ’ναι καὶ χειμώνας; do you think it is winter?
—ἰώ, ἴ! —ió, í!
Τώρα ν ἔρθεν ἡ ἄνοιξη Now the spring has come
—ἄχού, παιδάκι μου — —áchou, my child —
ν ἔρθεν τὸ καλοκαίρι, now the summer has come,
—ἰώ, ἴ! —ió, í!
παίρνουν κι ἀνθίζουν τὰ κλαδιὰ the branches are bursting into flower
—κοῦσε, παιδάκι μου — —listen, my child —
κι οἱ κάμποι λουλουδίζουν, and the plains are blossoming,
—ἰώ, ἴ! —ió, í!
ἔρθαν πουλιὰ τῆς ἄνοιξης the birds of spring have come
—ἄχου μούρ μάτια μου— —áchou, my eyes —
ἔρθαν τὰ χελιδόνια, the swallows have come,
—ἰώ, ἴ! —ió, í!
γιὰ κι ἡ Μεγάλη Πασκαλιὰ see, Eastertide is here
—φίδια ποὺ μ’ ἔφαγαν — —snakes that have eaten me —
μὲ τὸ Χριστὸν ἀνέστη, and Christ is risen,
—ἰώ, ἴ! —ió, í!
ποὺ ντυοῦνται νιοὶ στὰ κόκκινα when young men dress in red
—ἄχου, λεβέντη μου — —áchou, my brave one —
γερόντοι στὰ μουρέλια and old men in dark colours
—ἰώ, ἴ! —ió, í!
κι ἐσύ, μωρὲ λεβέντη μου, while you, my brave one
—ἄχου, λεβέντη μου — —áchou, my brave one —
μέσα στὴ γῆ τὴ μαύρη, in the black earth,
—ἰώ, ἴ! —ió, í!
ποῦ νὰ σειστῆς, νὰ λυϊστῆς how can you move, how can you sway
—φίδια ποὺ μ’ ἔφαγαν — —snakes that have eaten me —
νὰ σύρς τὴ λεβεντιά σου; how can you step forth with gallant youth?
—ἰώ, ἴ! —ió, í!
Ξεσφάλισε τὰ μάτια σου! Unseal your eyes !
Kyriakidis EL 37-8 {81|82}
Then everyone shouts ‘Arise, Zafeiris, arise!’, Zafeiris gets up and all run to the fields, singing. Until the Second World War the ritual of Zafeiris was celebrated on four successive Sundays in May, not with a child impersonating the dead spirit, but with a wooden image of Zafeiris made in the shape of a cross, which was taken into the church for a liturgy to be sung for it. It was then taken to the fields and dressed with pieces of cloth to resemble a young man, and afterwards returned to the church until the next Sunday. When the ritual was over and Zafeiris had truly risen, the image was destroyed and the wood thrown away. [54] These details, and the explicit injunction in the kommós that as now Christ has risen, and the swallow has returned, so must Zafeiris, illustrate how hard it still is in Greece to draw the line between Christian and pagan belief.
Leidinos and Zafeiris are just two examples, out of several which have survived, of seasonal cults for the death and return of a spirit of nature. They show how alongside the Virgin's lament there has persisted the same kind of cyclical, seasonal ritual as in antiquity, preserving in the case of Leidinos a similar mythical treatment, and in the case of Zafeiris a similar poetic use of invocation and nature imagery.


[ back ] 1. Cf. fr. 168 L-P: ὢ τὸν Ἄδωνιν. The Sapphic fragments are discussed by Atallah ALAG 93-7.
[ back ] 1a. There are only a few brief references: see Hes. fr. 139 M.-W.3, and A. Henrichs, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 13 (1972), 92-94.
[ back ] 2. The earliest reference to the Adónia in comedy indicates that it was already established as a popular festival of the time, Kratin. fr. 15, ed. Edmonds FAC 1.28: (sc. Gnesippos) … ὃv οὐκ ἂν ἠξίουν ἐγὼ | ἐμοὶ διδάσκειν οὐδ’ ἂν εἰς Ἀδώνια. Other comic poets known to have written plays about Adonis or his festival include Plato fr. 1-8 (Edmonds 1.490-3), Arar. fr. 1 (Edmonds 2.12), Antiph, fr. 13-15 (Edmonds 2.166-7), Philippid. fr. 1-3 (Edmonds 3a.168). For references to Adonis which indicate the popular character of his festival, see Eub. Astytoi fr. 14 (Edmonds 2.88) and Diph. Zographos fr. 43, 38-41 (Edmonds 3a.116). Atallah suggests that the reason for the lack of earlier literary evidence from Athens may lie in the popular non-official character of the festival, ALAG 104. Plutarch’s account of the Adónia in fifth-century Athens, although of later date, agrees substantially with the evidence from comedy: Ἀδωνίων γὰρ εἰς τὰς ἡμέρας ἐκείνας καθηκόντων, εἴδωλά τε πολλαχοῦ νεκροῖς ἐκκομιζομένοις ὅμοια προὔκειντο ταῖς γυναιξί, καὶ ταφὰς ἐμιμοῦντο κοπτόμεναι καὶ θρήνους ᾖδον, Alk. 18.5
[ back ] 3. Wilamowitz Adonis 10, Smyth GMP lxviii.
[ back ] 4. See Theok. 3.48 Sch., Jer. in Ezek. 8.14, Amm. Marc. 19.1.11, Eus. PE 3.11.9, Sall. de diis et mundo in FPG 3.32 ed. Mullach, EM s.v. For further discussion, see Frazer AAO 129-31, and Atallah ALAG 320-4.
[ back ] 5. See Theok. 15.113, Hsch. s.v. Further evidence is cited by Atallah ALAG 211-28, who disputes the view advanced by Frazer AAO 137 ff. and others that the custom originated in a fertility rite, arguing that the ancient sources explicitly emphasise the ephemeral quality of these seed plants (pp. 227-8)
[ back ] 6. Atallah ALAG 269.
[ back ] 7. Jerem. 22.18. See Frazer AAO 7-8, Atallah ALAG 305-6.
[ back ] 8. For the Homeric song to Linos, see Il. 18.570, and for Egyptian song to Maneros, see Hdt. 2.79. The custom of lamenting the first sheaves of corn to be reaped in the summer while invoking the name of Isis survived in Egypt until the first century B.C., D.S. 1.14.2. See Frazer AAO 237.
[ back ] 9. Pausanias says that Sappho merged the song of Adonis with that of Linos in her poetry, 9.29.8, cf. Sa. fr. 140b L-P, Pi. fr. 126 ed. Bowra. See Reiner RTG 110-13. A version of the Linos song is cited, with comments, in Il. 18.570 Sch. (B) (Page PMG 880), cf. ibid. Sch. (T) p. 279 Maass, Eust. Il. 1163.59.
[ back ] 10. For aílinon as a cry of grief, see E. Or. 1395; and as a cry of joy or victory, see A. Ag. 121, S. Aj. 628, E. HF 348-9, Hel. 172, cf. Ath. 619b-c: ἐν δὲ γάμοις ὑμέναιος∙ ἐν δὲ πένθεσιν ἰάλεμος· λίνος δὲ καὶ αἰλινος οὐ μόνον ἐν πένθεσιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ “ἐπ᾽ εὐτυχεῖ μολπᾷ”, κατὰ τὸν Εὺριπίδην. Like the song for Lityerses, it was also a farmer’s song, Poll. 138: λίνος καὶ λιτυέρσης σκαπανέων ὠδαὶ καὶ γεωργῶν. The Greek aílinon may be derived from the Phoenician ai-lanu (woe is us!), and the cry may be compared with others found in many parts of the world, e.g. Egyptian lulululu, Greek eleleû, Latin ululare, Basque Lelo (also personified), Vlachic lele, and Irish olagón.
[ back ] 11. Il. 18.493, Hes. Sc. 274, Sa. fr. 111 L-P, Pi. P. 3.17, fr. 126 ed. Bowra, cf. Pi. P. 3.313 Sch., ed. Boeckh pp. 362-3.
[ back ] 12. See Daremberg-Saglio, s.v. Hymenaios. The connection between marriage and death in Greek tradition is discussed by Alexiou and Dronke SM (1971) 825-41. See also chapter 6, pp. 120-2.
[ back ] 13. For the song of Lityerses in relation to Mariandynos, see Hsch. s.v. Μαριανδυνὸς θρῆνος, Poll. 1.38. Mariandynos is described as the dying corn god in Photios and the Suda s.v., and the story of his death is told by Athenaios 619-20, cf. FHG 3.13, A.R. 2.780 Sch., A. Pers. 937 Sch.(A).
[ back ] 14. Anon. Paraphr. 784-93 and Eust. Comm. in Dionys. 787 ff., both in Müller GGM 2.420, 355. George Pachymeres describes the condition of the Mariandynoi under Roman subjection as being Μαριανδυνοῦ θρηνητῆρος ἀξίως τἀκεῖ θρηνήσαντος de Mich. Palaeolog., Migne 143.4.311. Possinus refers to the saying as ‘adagium vetus’, tracing its origins not to Aeschylus but to ancient customs, and confirming its survival in later tradition, Observ. Pachym. 2, Migne 143.2.653. Eustathios quotes the saying in a slightly different form, adding that it was proverbial, and that the Carians, Phrygians and Mysians were no less famous for their lamentation. It is also listed as a proverb, with reference to Aeschylus and Eustathios, by Andreas Schottus in Gr. Paroem., Stromat. 686 (see Possinus Observ. Pachym. 2, Migne 143.2.653).
[ back ] 15. The verb is used in the context of the lament for a god in a wide variety of sources, see Bion 1.94, Diod. Sic. 1.14, Ath. 619.
[ back ] 16. See Heracl. Pont. in Ps.-Plu. de. mus. 3.
[ back ] 16a. See Hes. fr. 305 ed. Merkelbach-West, and Konon Narr. 19 in FGH 1.195 ff. There is a similar tradition about Olen of Lykia, Paus.
[ back ] 17. Konon Narr. 19 (Argos); Paus. 9.29.6, Il. 18.570 Sch.(BT) ed. Dindorf (Thebes); Pi. fr. 126 ed. Bowra.
[ back ] 18. Plu. Apophth. Lac. 228e (Leukothea); Philostr. Her. 2.207.1 ff. (Achilles); E. Med. 1379 Sch., Paus. 2.3.7, Philostr. Her. 2.207.21 ff. (ἐορτὴ πένθιμος for Medea’s children); Zen. 5.8 in Leutsch Paroemiogr. 1.117 (antiphonal lament in Megara and Corinth). In the latter, at least fifty people were involved, and the cult was an annual event, see Bekker Anecd. Graeca 1.281.30. Special honours for the Bakchiadai are mentioned in Pi. N 7.155 Sch. ed. Boeckh p. 485. See Reiner RTG 103-4, Nilsson GF 633.
[ back ] 19. Kern OF 227.209 = Prokl. in R. 1.94 Kroll: ὥσπερ δὴ καὶ Ὀρφεὺς τοῖς Διονυσιακοῖς εἰδώλοις … καὶ τοὺς θρήνους προσῆψεν ἀπὸ τῶν προνοουμένων ἅπαντα ταῦτα ἑκείνοις ἀναθείς, Clem. Al. Protr. 2.12: Δηὼ δὲ καὶ Κόρη δρᾶμα ἥδη ἐγενέσθην μυστικόν, … καὶ τὸ πένθος αὐταῖν Ἐλευσὶς δᾳδουχεῖ, cf. ibid. 15; Eus. PE 15.1: ὡς εἰσέτι καὶ νῦν τῶν θεῶν γάμους καὶ παιδοποιίας, θρήνους τε καὶ μέθας. See Farnell CGS 3.173-9.
[ back ] 20. John 19.25-7, 20.11. Lamentation is mentioned in Luke 22.27-8, but without reference to Mary.
[ back ] 21. Khouri-Sarkis OS 2 (1957) 203, cited by Grosdidier de Matons RM 4.144-5. The suggestion made by Solomos that Romanos was drawing on popular Passion Plays of his time is not supported by any evidence, AB 164.
[ back ] 22. Besides similarities in structure and theme, and the use of the same refrain, υἱέ μου καὶ Θεέ μου, there are some verbal echoes of Romanos: MMB 5.168 no. 4, lines 4, 6 and 8 ~ Romanos 19.2, 8 proem. 2; 1, 8.
[ back ] 23. MMB 5.168 no. 4, 4-8: Τί ἔδυς ἐξ ὀφθαλμῶν μου | ὁ Ἥλιος τῆς δόξης; | Οἴμοι οὐ φέρω ὁρᾶν σε ἀδίκως ἐπὶ ξύλου, | τιτρώσκει γὰρ τὴν καρδίαν μου | τῆς σῆς πλευρᾶς ἡ λόγχη, MMB 5.186 no. 16, 1-2, 9-10, 16-18: Ἀρχίφωτον ἀπαύγασμα | τῆς πατρικῆς σου δόξης, | … πῶς πέπονθας; ῥομφαία γὰρ δεινή με διακόπτει …
[ back ] 24. Θρῆνος τῆς ὑπεραγίας Θεοτόκου εἰς τὴν Σταύρωσιν τοῦ Δεσπότου Χριστοῦ (Thrênos Theotókou), Cod. Athous 4655 (Iberon 535) and 1309 (Laura 22), ed. Manousakas in MM (1956) 65-9, and reprinted by Zoras 60-2. For a discussion of the text, see Manousakas 60-4, Zoras 21. In the seventeenth century, Diakrousis composed a rhymed version of it, which passed into popular tradition in Crete, see Manousakas 63, Amarioti EEKS (1939) 131-5.
[ back ] 25. GNPC 11-74. Tuilier’s argument, briefly summarized, is as follows: the grounds on which earlier critics rejected the attribution to Gregory are largely subjective; all manuscripts, some of which are certainly old, contain the attribution; passages in the play taken from Euripides are closer to the earlier manuscript tradition of Euripides (where this can be checked with the evidence of papyrus fragments) than to later Byzantine manuscript tradition; the similarity of lines 454-60 to Romanos 19.1, 4-8 is more readily explained if we accept the earlier date, since borrowings from homilies and other works of the Church fathers are characteristic of the early melodists; although no specific reference to the play is made by biographers of Gregory, theatrical works are mentioned; finally, the clearly diphysite standpoint of the play coincides with the general movement in Gregory’s time, when classical models were also commonly Christianised. A similar view, less cogently argued, was advanced earlier by Solomos, AB 77-85. Grosdidier de Matons, in his edition of Romanos, adheres to the later dating of the play, RM 4.161. See Doering TC, Krumbacher GBL 746-8.
[ back ] 26. CP 454-60 ~ Romanos 19.1, 4-8. The superiority of Romanos’ version cannot be used as a criterion for dating, as was attempted by Solomos AB 80-1 and by Cottas TB 226. The absurd claim made by Cottas that the Christòs Páschon was the source of all later passion plays, Italian as well as Greek, has found few adherents, see TB 244-9.
[ back ] 27. CP 1548-52. See Protevangelium Iacobi 13-16 (Tischendorf 24-30), where Joseph is convinced of her chastity only by a miracle. In Mt. 1.18-19, one word from the angel allays his suspicions; but they recur in some of the later hymns, see Wellesz BMH 282.
[ back ] 28. CP 754-60, cf. Symeon Metaphrastes S. Mariae Planctus, Migne 114.213b, and Thrênos Theotókou 75-6, Zoras 61. Similar motifs occur elsewhere in homiletic tradition, see S. Germani Patriarchae In dominici corporis sepulturam, where the Virgin, lamenting Christ at the tomb, wishes she could have died with him (Migne 98.272a); and also Georgii Nicomediensis In SS. Mariam assistentem cruci, where, in an imagined dialogue with Christ at the Cross, she wishes she could relieve his pain by dying in his stead (Migne 100.1472b). For the suicide wish in the modern ballads, see Laog (1934) 252.120.
[ back ] 29. CP 266-346. For the curse formula, see 298-9 and Politis 128A 10-11.
[ back ] 30. See Tomadakis BY 2.76-9, who suggests that it was compiled over a long period by several hands. Trembelas refers to Theodore the Studite (ninth century) as a possible author, MEE s.v. epitáphios thrênos; but there seems little evidence to support this view. Similarities with other works include: Epit. thr. 2.14 ~ MMB 5.180.11, 1; 2.5 ~ Sym. Metaphr. Planctus 216; 1.12 ~ MMB 5.186.16, 12-13 and Sym. Metaphr. Planctus 209a.
[ back ] 31. The pagan origins of this symbolism and its incorporation into early Christian doctrine are discussed in detail by Rahner GMCM 89-176.
[ back ] 32. The motif is used by Varnalis in his poem Ἡ Μάνα τοῦ Χριστοῦ from Τὸ Φῶς ποὺ Καίει: Καθὼς κλαίει σὰν τῆς παίρνουν τὸ τέκνο ἡ δαμάλα | ξεφωνίζω καὶ νόημα δὲν ἔχουν τὰ λόγια.
[ back ] 33. See Tischendorf EA 266-300. On the dates of the two recensions, see Tischendorf’s prologue and Schneemelcher-Henneke NT Apocrypha 1.448.
[ back ] 34. Tischendorf 282-3 ~ Epit. Thr. 1.8 and Sym. Metaphr. Planctus 209a; Tischendorf 285 ~ Thrênos Theotókou 83-90.
[ back ] 35. Jacopone da Todi Laude ed. Mone LH 2.147, 446. The difference in the treatment of the theme of the Virgin’s grief is more remarkable in view of other parallels between Greek and Latin hymns cited by Mone, 150ff. In western tradition, both Latin and vernacular, the Virgin’s lament emerges in the second half of twelfth century, when it was elaborated in the Passion Plays and as a separate lyrical piece, see Sticca CM (1966) 296-309, and also Dronke PIMA 28-31 on lyrical planctus with biblical themes before Abelard. S. P. Brock has pointed out to me that there are striking parallels to the Virgin’s lament in the Greek Acta Pilati in a long lament preserved in two manuscripts (Mingana syr. 87 and 127, c. 1450 and 1683), written in the combination of Arabic language and Syriac script known as Garshūni. In the introduction to his edition and translation, Mingana indicates that the real author of the document is Gamaliel, and that it consititutes a further link in the chain of Acta Pilati, being a translation or close imitation of a Coptic document, which has survived only in fragments, dealing with the history of Pontius Pilate, WSt 2.166-82. The Virgin’s lament is introduced by a series of rhetorical questions, justifying her sorrow by reference to the lamentation of the Patriarchs: ‘The weeping of Jacob, the head of the Patriarchs, has been renewed today, O my beloved; why then should not the Virgin Mary weep over her Son whom she conceived in virginity?’ (ibid. 182-3).
[ back ] 36. EEBS (1953) 491-506, ArP (2954) 188-225, Mch (1948) 217, Sakellarios 2.84, 28. A bibliography, with other versions, is listed in Laog (1934) 253.
[ back ] 37. Sakellarios 2.84, 28 and 49, cf. Romanos 19.3-5 and CP 730-3. But the parallel between the ballad and the Chrisòts Páschon, close as it is, does not prove the direct dependence argued by Cottas, TB 246-8. On the antiquity of the Virgin’s lament in Cyprus, and especially on the Cyprus Passion Play (MS c. 1260-70), see Mahr CPPC.
[ back ] 38. Laog (1934) 249-53.70-2, 86-7, 107-9; and for suicide wish, see 116—18, ibid. 256.95-6, DIEE (1892) 722γ et passim. For the two swoons in the apocryphal gospel, see Tischendorf 282. Swooning in association with lamentation appears to be a feature of medieval literature, not found in classical or biblical sources, see Gierden AFA 52.
[ back ] 39. Cf. Tischendorf 285, Thrênos Theotókou 89-90: τὸ στόμα τὸ γλυκύτατον ἵνα καταφιλήσω. For the gesture of a mother kissing her dead son, common in medieval literature, Gierden cites a possible biblical precedent in Gen. 50.1, where Joseph kisses his dead father, adding that the gesture was unknown in classical literature, AFA 54-5. But Aphrodite more than once kisses the dead Adonis in Bion’s Epitaphios, 13-14, 41-5; and, if it be objected that their relationship was not one of kinship, a closer parallel probably existed in Euripides Ba. 1329 ff. Unfortunately, there is a lacuna in the text of Agave’s lament for Pentheus at this point, but if we accept the postulated restituton from CP 1311-13, 1315, 1256-7, 1466-72, 1122-3, she lamented and kissed each of Pentheus’ body in turn by way of a last farewell. The general content of these lines is independently confirmed by Apsines in Rhet. Gr. 9.590, ed. Walz, see Ba. ed. Dodds (1960) pp. 234, 245.
[ back ] 40. Cf. Laog (1934) 255.42-4. The bloodstained moon during the Crucifixion is mentioned in Anaphora Pilati, Tischendorf 417A: σελήνη δὲ τὸ φέγγος ὡς αἱματίζουσα διέλιπεν. In the ballads, the theme is adapted to the familiar formula of questions, with the effective addition of the silence of the birds, cf. Politis 92.42.
[ back ] 41. Megas EE 157. For the expression of this belief in the laments, see Theros 697.12, Laog (1934) 257.103-9, Politis 206.1.
[ back ] 42. ArP (1954) 195-6. Romaios cites a version from Chios which he claims to have preserved the ‘original’ form: Πάρε, Γιάννη, τὴ μάννα σου, καὶ μάννα μου, τὸν ὑγιό σου, Kanellakis 96.
[ back ] 43. Ibid. 194, where Romaios comments on DIEE (1892) 722γ. It is interesting to note that the same thought is expressed by the angels when they bring the news to Mary in the Arabic lament referred to above, n. 35: ‘O Mary, what are you doing sitting, while your Son is standing before the Governor and is being judged and insulted by the High Priest of the Jews? …O dove of Hannah, what are you doing sitting, while your Son is being crucified in the place of the Kranion?’ WSt 2.184.
[ back ] 44. The origins of ‘Saint Kale’ have been analysed by Romaios, ArP (1954) 197 ff. See also Politis Laog (1909) 350, Lawson MGF 164.
[ back ] 44a. Romaios 199.
[ back ] 44b. Loukopoulos 205; cf. Politis Parad. 660, 661.
[ back ] 45. Hsch. s.v. Kalliste. It is believed that on 1 September, male and female Καλοὶ τῶν Ὀριῶν (Good people of the mountains) come out and seek their sister Kalé to the four corners of the earth, Laog (1909) 347-9, cf. Politis Parad. 661.
[ back ] 46. The weeping of the ancient Nereids is mentioned in AP 9.151.5-8. Just as Demeter appealed to the sun for help in her search for Persephone (Hom. Hm. 2.64-73), so too, in a modern lament, a mother asks: Ἥλιε μου καὶ τρισήλιε μου καὶ κοσμογυριστή μου, | ψὲς ἔχασα μιὰ λυγερή, μιὰ ἀκριβοθυγατέρα∙ | νὰ μὴ τὴν εἶδες πουθενά, ωὰ μὴ τὴν ἁπαντῆσες; Politis 221.1-3.
[ back ] 47. In his sermon De deitate filii et spiritus sancti, Gregory of Nyssa includes a lyrical planctus for Isaac, although he is careful to point out that Abraham, being a just man, did not actually speak these words, Migne 46.568d. As Mercati has demonstrated, Gregory’s planctus is closely modelled on a similar one in a sermon of Ephraem, In Abraham et Is., ESO 1.9-30. The tradition of this fictitious lament is continued by later Church fathers, see Mercati pp. 4 ff., and Grosdidier de Matons RM 1.132. Romanos, in his kontákion On Abraham and Isaac (no. 41), follows patristic tradition by introducing the lament with the words “πῶς οὐκ εἶπας;”, but continues with another lament from Sarah and a tense dialogue between Abraham and Sarah, which is no longer imagined, but real. It is possible, though by no means certain, that this kontákion was known to the author of the Cretan θυσία τοῦ Ἀβραάμ, see Baud-Bovy Byz. (1938) 217-26.
[ back ] 48. The parallels have been collected by Lioudaki EEKS (1939) 412 ff., and are cited by Megas in his edition of the play, p. 118.
[ back ] 49. Megas EE 160-1 and plate 1.
[ back ] 50. When asked why villagers were so anxious on Good Friday, an old woman from Euboia is reported to have replied, ‘Of course I'm anxious; for if Christ does not rise tomorrow, we shall have no corn this year’, Lawson MGF 573. See also Martino MPR 343-4.
[ back ] 51. Kakouri HC (1956) 6-22, PAA (1952) 223, where she notes also the survival in Aigina of the custom of planting ‘gardens of Adonis’, known as arakiá.
[ back ] 52. Kakouri HC (1956) 9-10, 18-19.
[ back ] 53. On 14 September in Lemnos, housewives make new dough which is blest in church and taken round the streets in procession with the Cross; in Naxos, farmers place beside the sanctuary a bundle of barley, beans, peas etc., which are blest by the priest and sown with the crop for the following year; in Karpathos and Pylia, there are similar associations between reaping and the Feast of the Cross, Megas EE 236-9.
[ back ] 54. Kakouri PAA (1952) 224, Megas EE 189-90. Similarly, on 1 May in Kastania a figure called Fouskodéntri is mourned, while in Mykonos, another figure called Krantonéllos is dressed with sea flowers and plants, and then lamented, Megas EE 190-1.