Digenis Akritas; The Two-Blood Border Lord: The Grottaferrata Version

Digenis Akritas; The Two-Blood Border Lord: The Grottaferrata Version

Digenis Akritas; The Two-Blood Border Lord: The Grottaferrata Version

Digenis Akritas; The Two-Blood Border Lord: The Grottaferrata Version

Excerpt

Basil the Two-Blood Border Lord, better known by his Greek name, Basileios Digenis Akritas, was a legendary hero of the Byzantine Empire, a gigantic figure clad in Christian orthodoxy, who has become the symbol of the eternal spirit of Hellas to the modern Greeks. His story, commonly known as Digenis Akritas, follows in many respects the same epic tradition as the Iliad, the Morte Darthur, the Chanson de Roland, and the Nibelungenlied, which honor national heroes, were written long after the event, and contain threads of recognizable history. Like these epics, the story of Basil the Two-Blood Border Lord contains the theme of loyalty to a code of honor and behavior, although its code is somewhat different. In order to understand and enjoy this Byzantine poem, one must become acquainted with the Byzantine point of view. As we can only give a very superficial description of Byzantine life and literature in this introduction, we suggest J. B. Bury introduction to the 1923 edition of The Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 4, The Byzantine Empire, which also has been reproduced in both Part I and Part II of the 1969 edition, edited by J. M. Hussey. Chapters 3, 4, 11, 20, 27, 28 and 30 are pertinent also. Greek Literature; II Byzantine by Karl Krumbacher and Franz Sherrard's Constantinople, Iconography of a Sacred City (London: Oxford University Press, 1965) best gives the atmosphere of the poem's environment.

Historical Background. The action in the poem occurs during the second half of the ninth century and the first half of the tenth in the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine Empire, particularly that part which lies in Asia Minor around the Taurus Mountains and the Euphrates . . .

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