Academic journal article Text Matters

Images of Trebizond and the Pontos in Contemporary Literature in English with a Gothic Conclusion

Academic journal article Text Matters

Images of Trebizond and the Pontos in Contemporary Literature in English with a Gothic Conclusion

Article excerpt

Text Matters, Volume 6, Number 6, 2016 DOI: 10.1515/texmat-2016-0015

Magorzata Dbrowska

University of d

A Byzantinist specializing in the history of the Empire of Trebizond (12041461), the author presents four books of different genres written in English and devoted to the medieval state on the south coast of the Black Sea. The most spectacular of them is anovel by Rose Macaulay, Towers of Trebizond. Dbrowska wonders whether it is adequate to the Trebizondian past or whether it is aprojection of the writer. She compares Macaulays novel with William Butler Yeatss poems on Byzantium which excited the imagination of readers but were not meant to draw their attention to the Byzantine past. This is, obviously, the privilege of literature. As ahistorian, Dbrowska juxtaposes Macaulays narration with the historical novel by Nicolas J.Holmes, the travelogue written by Michael Pereira and the reports of the last British Consul in Trabzon, Vorley Harris. The author of the article draws the readers attention to the history of arather unknown and exotic region. The Empire of Trebizond ceased to exist in 1461, conquered by Mehmed II. At the same time the Sultans army attacked Wallachia and got abitter lesson from its ruler Vlad Dracula. But this Romanian hero is remembered not because of his prowess on the battleeld but due to his cruelty which dominated literary ction and separated historical facts from narrative reality. The contemporary reader is impressed by the image of adreadful vampire, Dracula. The same goes for Byzantium perceived through the magic stanzas by Yeats, who never visited Istanbul. Rose Macaulay went to Trabzon but her vision of Trebizond is very close to Yeatss images of Byzantium. In her story imagination is stronger than historical reality and it is imagination that seduces the reader.

Images of Trebizond and the Pontos in Contemporary Literature in English with aGothic Conclusion

A B S T R A C T

Magorzata Dbrowska

As ahistorian of the Empire of Trebizond, generally unknown and therefore arather exotic state of the Byzantine imperial family of the Great Komnenoi, which operated in 12041461 on the southern shore of the Black Sea, Iwould like to use my perspective while referring to afamous novel by Rose Macaulay, Towers of Trebizond. The question whether the title image invoked amyth or whether Trebizond really existed with its mysterious towers might be of interest to academics dealing with contemporary English literature. The case is similar to that of Byzantium, whose fame in the milieu of literary scholars is due to the poems by William Butler Yeats, Sailing to Byzantium (21718) and Byzantium (28081). While the poems have often been the subject of analysis, it is worth stressing that for the author, the name Byzantium did not mean the Eastern Roman Empire per se but its capital, Constantinople (whose ancient name was Byzantium), afamous city on the Bosporus, captured by the Turks in 1453. Yeats was clearly fascinated by the glamour of the emperor in his golden reception hallChrysotriklinos, which guides the reader to the Book of Ceremonies written in the 10th century by Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (Constantinos Porphyrogennitos). This Byzantine source became popular due to the poets contemporary, John Bagnell Bury, an eminent Irish historian who gave lectures in Dublin and then in Cambridge in 18931927. Yeats was his student in Latin at High School in Dublin (Arkins 22). We can only speculate whether Burys analysis of the Book of Ceremonies published in 1907 inspired Yeats, who in the very same year appeared in Italy because of health reasons. The poet never reached Constantinople, that is Istanbul, but he visited Ravenna and the Byzantine monuments of the 6th century (Arkins 20). He was surely impressed by the golden, colourful mosaics in the basilica of San Vitale, representing the imperial couple: Justinian and Theodora and their court. He did not need to go any further. …

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