Amphoteroglossia: A Poetics of the Twelfth-Century Medieval Greek Novel

  Roilos, Panagiotis. 2006. Amphoteroglossia: A Poetics of the Twelfth Century Medieval Greek Novel. Hellenic Studies Series 10. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

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

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 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.

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]

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:

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.

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

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]

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.

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.

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

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 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:

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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?

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:

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:

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).

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]

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:

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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]

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]

• • •

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.