Lyrics (in Greek)
to be one of the masterpieces of Greek literature, EROTOKRITOS
belongs to the category of epic poems, was written by Vitsentzo
Kornaros and is constituted by 10.000 verses, divided in five
parts. Its name has been taken from Erotokritos, the main
character of this poem, which implies the one that has been
tortured by love. Initially, the story of the poem appears
to take place in Ancient Athens, on the days of King Iraklis
(fictitious person) but then the poet adds characters, facts
and places that are reported in the Middle Ages and this period
of time. The plot is twisting around the love of Erotokritos
and Aretousa, the daughter of the King, a love that is being
used by the poet as a keystone in order to praise friendship,
bravery and the love for the homeland.
was the son of Pezostratos, adviser of the King, who belonged
to the inferior social class from the princess, something
that made impossible any relation between them. Erotokritos,
not having the possibility of expressing his love to Aretousa,
sings in a disguise erotic songs under her window in the evenings,
while the princess slowly falls in love with the unknown singer.
When the Erotokritos is forced, with his friend Polidoros,
to kill ten of the bodyguards of the King that had been sent
in order to arrest him, he runs away to the city of Egripos,
where, in vain, he tries to forget his love. Aretousa, when
the unknown singer stops singing under her window, discovers
that she loves him, despite the advices of her nanny, Frosini,
who tells her that it is unreasonable to love a stranger and
obviously of an inferior social class.
During a visit of Aretousa at the house of Pezostratos, father
of Erotokritos, she finds out the songs and her picture, discovering
thus the identity of her secret admirer and falls in deep
sadness. In an attempt to entertain his daughter, the King
organises fights of joust, where the most distinguished aristocrats
of that time are called. In the fights Erotokritos participates
as well, he wins the fight and takes the prize for his victory
by the hands of his beloved princess.
courage from his victory, the young man dares to ask in marriage
Aretousa from her father, King Iraklis, asking from his father,
Pezostrato to intervene. Iraklis however gets furious,dismisses
his adviser, exiles Erotokritos and orders his daughter to
marry the successor of throne of the Byzantium. Aretousa refuses
to do this so Iraklis confines her in a dark and humid dungeon,
with her nanny, where they remain for years, suffering many
hardships. After many years, the king of Vlahias, Vlantistratos,
declares a war to Athens and invades with his army causing
enormous destructions. Erotokritos
after drinking a magic liquid that changes his appearance,
comes to help his homeland and causes enormous losses to the
hostile army, while during one of the fights, he saves the
life of the old King Iraklis and his friend, Polidoros.
The war is judged in a epic duel between Erotokritos and the
nephew of the King of Vlahias, Aristos. Erotokritos
overcomes, killing his opponent but gets wounded seriously.
The enemies are withdrawn, therefore Erotokritos is transported
to the royal palaces, in the room and bed of Aretousa, where
he stays until he is cured. King Iraklis wanting to expresses
his gratitude, offers to adopt him and assign to him half
of his kingdom. Erotokritos
however denies and asks from him to release Aretousa and allowed
to him to marry her. In the beginning the princess refuses
to be married to a stranger, therefore Erotokritos
goes by his own to her and, realising her faith, reveals his
real face. The marriage takes place and the young couple gets
on the royal throne.
the poet himself nothing is known apart of what he writes
about himself in his Conclusion, where he reports that he
was born in Sitia, Crete and lived in the Castle (Heraklion).
It is not also known whether he had any relationship with
the Kornaros, a big family of nobles, of Venetian origin.
It is not known the time at which the epic was written. The
Cretan dialect that is used is considered to have been shaped
in this form after the second half of the 16th century. Inside
the poem there are passages that imitate the Ariosto's "Raging
Dutch", something that places his writing after 1550,
while other passages refer to imitations of "Erofili"
that was written by the Hortatzi around 1600. Many of the
battles that are described in the poem appear to refer in
the fights of the Cretans against the Turks after 1645, while
despite the big popularity of the poem, there are no reports
about it before 1669, when Crete has been dominated, despite
the fact that there was a communication between the dominating
Venice, where a lot of books were being published.
The first printed publication of EROTOKRITOS was in 1713 in
Venice, a copy of which is saved in the Gennadio Library,
while in the British Museum there is saved a handwritten publication
from 1710. The publication of 1713 was printed again in 1737
and a copy of it exists today in the National Library, in
Athens. Since then, a lot of publications were printed in
the Venice, in thousands of copies and in Athens after the
German release. The last ones however are of very low qualitiy,
full of alterations. The first completed and correct publication,
which was based on the initial one of Venice, was in Heraklion
of Crete in 1915. In this publication there is an extensive
introduction, glossary and bibliography.
language of the poem is the dialect of Eastern Crete, which
is considered to be particularly developed and capable of
expressing effervescently so many ideas as well as sentiments.
It is considered to be well comprehensible by the Greeks
of that time, while even today it is not excessively difficult
to read. What in any case deserves to be marked is that
even if Kornaros is considered a roughly "popular"
poet, without a particular education on behalf of him, the
metre, as well as the rhyme in EROTOKRITOS are really perfect,
without the rules of language or the right accentuation
of words being forced. At the same time, the rhyme is everywhere
particularly richl, with a big variety and is expressed
effortlessly. All this characteristics are of bigger importance
if we take into consideration the particularly big extent
of the epic.
this, the criticsc have concluded that Kornaros did not imitate
any particular works. It is said that he must have had direct
knowledge of ancient grammar, Greek, or Latin, if we exclude
some Italian translations. However it is believed that he
had knowledge of Italian literature, included the part that
constituted an imitation of older French "knightly"
poems, while as we reported already, there are passages where
the pictures and the ideas that are described, appear to emanate
from Italian works. There are also explicit influences and
descriptions from the Venetian environment of that time and,
without any doubt, EROTOKRITOS is a "romantic, erotic,
occidental epic". The distribution of EROTOKRITOS after
its first publication in 1713 was enormous, in all the parts
where there were Greeks. Of course the epic became a regular
"popular reading", which was learned by heart and
recited in each occasion. Verses of EROTOKRITOS were presented
in the popular erotic poetry for a lot of times since then,
while it gave reason for a lot of theatrical representations,
creation of place-names etc. Such was its popularity that
Adamantios Korais himself characterized Kornaros, in the beginning
of the 19th century, as the "Homer of popular literature".
By this point of view, the poem is considered to be amongst
the best works of popular poetry.