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Ευρωπαϊκή Εταιρεία Νεοελληνικών Σπουδών

Γ΄ συνέδριο της Ευρωπαϊκής Εταιρείας Νεοελληνικών Σπουδών

Lia Brad Chisacof

Was Zacharias Karandinos of Aetolia a Contemporary of Caesarios Dapontes?

Anyone familiar with the 18th cent. and implicitly any researcher of the Greek 18th cent.is faced with a plethora of specific problems of which one of the most conspicuous is the existence of anonymous manuscripts or manuscripts by signed yet unknown authors.

To solve the above former one has to resort to attribution studies[1] while the above latter is open to less canonical and more imaginative solutions.

In the present paper we will attempt a comparative approach at two 18th cent. authors of which one is more than well-known while the other one still awaits proper presentation. An edition of this latter’s works[2] which we are now preparing will be of great help in this sense. The first one is Constantine Caesarios Dapontes and the second is Zacharias Karandinos of Aetolia whose works are kept in a manuscript in the Library of the Romanian Academy.

Eversince A.R.Rangabe (1877)[3] Dapontes was somehow underestimated. In his time "poetry, as one could expect, was poorly represented as that was a period of decadence ". The Women’s Mirror was "nothing but an anthology of anecdotes cold and devoid of vigour on the feminine virtues" while "the same author has also sung the saints in verses that are no better. His treaty on ethics "a plus de mérite que ses poèmes".

Börge Knös[4] does some justice to Dapontes. Thus according to him Dapontes was "l’ecrivain grec le plus productif"and sets the "religious compositions" on a first place within his works followed by his didactic and historical writings , by his geographic descriptions, his hymns and songs of all sorts.

Iannis Kordatos[5] thought that Dapontes was considered in his own time important although he had "no new or brilliant idea". "He came to know from very near the new aristocracy and is the interpreter of its psychology and gossip".

Linos Politis [6] is quite objective: "His output is amazing .He put all he heard or saw or read into thousands of careless prosaic lines. It is of course no poetry nor has it even the most elementary literary polish. Nevertheless , in this endless flow of verses some are sometimes made to pause by a sharp observation or an accurate description and more often by a genuine sense of humour and a wit that is frequently apt, for example in the parodies of ecclesiastical hymns".

In the vein of Constantinos Dimaras, Anna Tabakis[7] sees Dapontes as a belated representative of the pre-Enlightenment preponderence of verse over prose.

Here of course and for the sake of our intended comparison we are not questioning Dapontes talent or lack of talent not even his place within Greek literature, we are taking a closer look at his works which in fact on the whole were not examined minutely enough.

A first remark we would like to do is that in our opinion his Το φανάρι των γυναικών (Women’s lighthouse) which selects a hundred biblical and non-biblical stories about wise woman and another hundred such stories about unwise women is but a composition on the theme of the biblical ten Virgins.The number of wise and unwise women is multiplied so as the examples given should be more vivid and more convincing.

A second such remark has as an objective the Βιβλίον περιέχον τας ιεράς ακολουθίας του Αγίου ιερομάρτυρας Χαραλάμπους του Θαυματουργού (Book comprising the divine service of Saint Charalambos the miracle worker the martyr) published in Bucharest in 1746. Dapontes ‘ aim in publishing with his own money this book which has nothing original is to provide the Greek orthodox nation with the necessary stuff for the right understanding (Dapontes lays a special accent on the second Commandment of the Decalogue i.e. Love thy neighbour as thyself) and practice of its faith. The book was given for free[8].

A monk by his own confession , Zacharias Karandinos from Aetolia is the author of two tragedies written in α Greek setting itself the aim to imitate ancient Greek , a divine service dedicated to Saints Panagos and Christos , a word for Christ and a dialogue between the soul and the body.All this stuff is kept in a manuscript undated but datable at the beginning of the 18th cent. [9] kept in the Library of the Romanian Academy.

The first play is called Domna (The Princess) and bears clearcut features of an ancient tragedy. Its characters are the The Nurse, the Servant, the Princess, Constantine, the chorus of young girls, the King of the Arabs, the first, the second and the third son of Constantine and his daughter.

At its inception there is in the same tradition a précis

In the year 1711 A.D. under Sultan Ahmet a war was initiated by this latter against the kingdom of Moscow and thus sending his armies against the Russians ( in this he was helped by Constantine Bassarab the then prince of the whole Wallachia as he was the Sultan’s subject). Thus as no little time went by he was calumniated by someone to the Sultan as wanting to become an apostate and help the Russians and fight with them against the Empire. In order to prevent this from happening the Sultan was even more stirred to punish Constantine for his gold, as he was rich from his forefathers and also loved to get gold. For this reason as he took him and his sons from post to post in chains to Constantinople first he killed the sons in front of him and then him himself (f.25r)

The play Domna starts with a lament by the nurse who would rather that:

…The gold of the whole earth got lost , it never came out of nature’s caves, the shiny sunshine never penetrated there again to make the gold get born without pain …[the gold] got buried again so that the miners could never reach it again…(f.25r)

Mention is made of Hecuba:

....We have suffered bad things, very bad things,which go above lament for pain and are worth many tears.That what Hecuba has suffered was nothing....(f.39 r)

There is then the Princess lamenting in her turn the departure of her husband and sons and fears the worst as she had had a dream implying the "reigning town of Constantine" which her husband had reached and from where his image "threw dark black beams". She dreads the "barbarians" as "they do in a barbarian way everything they act ". Her hope lies with Virgin Mary "mistress queen of all the things in heaven and taller than the firmament" (f.29r).

An extensive part of the play is dedicated to the dialogue between Prince Brâncoveanu and the Arab[10] king and yet a lengthier one to the scene of decapitation in which the father has to tell every one of his sons into not resisting the final blow. The youngest son though is the most reluctant and therefore his father’s plead has to be more convincing:

Why, oh child do you fear death so much as to have your face pale? Why should you be afraid of death which bestows you with immortality an undeceiving lot ? Did you not see this is not death but an achievement of salvation? Happy you really if thus you display wholeheartedly a clear conscience. Without sighing you embraced rather sorrow than pleasure as you were honoured to be beheaded for the sake of the truth. Being pious you have to act in piety as if you knew from the beginning that you were more important than many words than sacred people who give speeches in the gymnasia healing in holy gardens. Pray stay in the faith in which you were rightfully reared as a scion who has increased his power many times you have to shake the fruit in a celestial trough, in an intangible monastery where God is happy with the celestial legions with incessant and irrepressible voices raising hymns thrice together with nature.(f.57v)

The Princess buries her family, is happy to have been left with her daughter and hopes she is no more in for more misfortunes.

The choir is present approxiamtely
An angel puts in an appearance.

Dedicated to prince Constantine Brancoveanu killed by the Turks in 1714 this play written in Greek is part of a whole multilingual series comprising Abbe Prevost’s Le monde moral[11] as well as Romanian heroic epic songs (Aga Bălăceanu and Constantin Brâncoveanu)[12] and a prayer.[13]

While in all the contributions with the exception of the prayer there is a common element namely Brâncoveanu’s trespass consisting in his being greedy or unfair which brought about his punishment by God, in Domna and in Monde moral he is seen as a hero of Christianity. The same does not go for the Romanian epic songs which are an echo of the real historical facts. The prince was betrayed by the boyards from among which was Bălăceanu and the songs seem to be part of a biased tradition favourable to the latter.

The second tragedy, Avel,(f.68r-107v) concentrates on the Holy Creation and could fit perfectly well in the Western Corpus Christi cycle, namely in its first ages[14] and more precisely in the Cain and Abel plays[15] . Its characters are The Body, the Soul, the Blood, Adam, Eve, Abel , his guardian angel, Cain, a semi-choir and God.

It précis reads :

Adam the first man made by God’s hand from the non-being into being from Chaos on his image and resemblance was given a `soul and a mind as the holy Script has it. To provide him with a change God got one of his ribs out and put chair instead and built out of the rib he got out of Adam into a woman and brought her to Adam and Adam said this bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh she will be your wife for from her man she was severed. The serpent being very wicked ( to say the least) he attracted all the living beings on the earth and he gullied them through a fruit from Paradise and made them all trespassers pretending it was God’s will; thus naked of the initial beauty and chased from the holy Eden it is then that Adam knew his wife eve and as she got pregnant she gave birth to her first son Cain and then after a while to a second one , Abel. As they both grew up to be teenagers, one became a shepherd and the other one a peasant. God did not approach Cain but he did pay attention to Abel for Cain killed his brother.(f.68r)

Eve is punished through the crime in her family for her original sin.

In point of language, which could be called a katharevousa, the achievement is outstanding as with the very few exceptions of some words occurring with their meaning in modern Greek as is for instance περιβόλιον (f.70r) (occurring as "garden" a meaning which did not exist in ancient Greek) the rest of the vocabulary is unmistakably ancient with a constant switch among the ancient Doric and Ionic dialects with a constant preference to use [ou] instead of [o] in a stressed position.Let us mention as well that one character in Domna , the servant, is called by exactly the same name as its presumaby model character in Euripides’ Hecuba,namely θεράπαινα.[16]

Karandinos must have been one of those who had known prince Brâncoveanu and maybe assisted at his execution and might be one and the same person with monk Zacharias who was writing an informing letter to Brâncoveanu in 1714[17]. The letter, written on March the 2 , 1714 betrays familiarity, the monk had just returned from a voyage and witnessed the instalment of a new Patriarch in Constantinople, Kosmas[18].

Coming back to the plays a brief discussion on the ancient tragedy as a model is quite useful. That the ancient tragedy was part of the Byzantine curriculum is a well-known or quite so fact[19]. There is quite a consistent amount of discussion as to its spread[20]. On the whole" Byzantium never created a great written drama ,but its whole culture was essentially dramatic."[21] There were suggestions that the Passions of the Christ of the Western world originated from the Byzantine Empire [22]where in fact Christos Paschon seem to have been constantly performed.[23] Quite tellingly this Christian tragedy used scraps from Euripides and other Greek playwrights. The less common place fact is that post Byzantine curriculum also contained tragedy[24].
Let us have a look, as obviously the Christian contents of the above mentioned plays send to something else, at the Jesuit drama for instance, as up to 1775 the Jesuits were very active all over Europe and no less so in Constantinople [25] .

The Jesuit curriculum included drama. As compared to the humanists who produced Latin plays as a means of teaching language skills and cultivating poise and rhetorical flourish, the Jesuits added to it religious and moral instruction as a formative influence. According to the Jesuit curriculum the Ratio studiorum of 1586 for instance theatre could be a forceful agent for stirring pupils’ interest in learning, a strategy in an educational program of self-help and development of talent, an aid to the study of humanities or a tactic for enlivening instruction in grammar and rhetoric. The religious aim of the Jesuits derived from the larger purpose of the Society of Jesus to devote itself not only to the salvation and perfection of the members’ own souls but also to labour in giving aid toward the salvation and perfection of the souls of their fellowmen". Artistry in Jesuit drama was secondary to the instruction.[26]

In some countries the promotion of this kind of school theatre helped launch the national theatre, determining somehow aesthetic tastes and training such playwrights as Pierre and Thomas Corneille, Alain René le Sage, Molière and Voltaire, Calderon de la Barca, Tirso de Molina and Lope de Vega.

Both Domna and Avel are conceived as tragedies ( are called so in the title but with the list of characters the term is drama) and are written in a reconstructed ancient Greek. Both have a choir or a semi-choir (as the classical number of twelve could not be met). Thus their link to the ancient tragedies is unquestionable. The Christian vein is also obvious and might have some connection with the Jesuit theatre still not reproducing its exact patterns [27]as it has to do with mediaeval drama at large. The fact may be due to Zacharias ‘exceptional literary gift as well as to his lack of a real familiarity (i.e the possibility to read a text) with this kind of dramatic production.

The two tragedies are followed by a Προς Χριστόν Λόγος , a sincere hymn to the Saviour and by the Ακολουθία των αγίων νέων μαρτύρων Πανάγου και Χρήστου ποιηθείσα παρά του εν ιερομονάχοις ελαχίστου Ζαχαρίου του Καραντινού του εξ Αιτολίας αιτήσει ευσεβών τινών χριστιανών. (The divine service of the holy new martyrs Panagos and Chrestos written by the least of monks Zacharias Karandinos of Aetolia at the request of some pious christians).

It is an attempt by Karandinos to impose two new martyrs. An interesting pun upon words is to be mentioned among the martyrs’names the adjective πανάγιος and Christ’s name.
The language of this sermon is no longer trying to stick to ancient Greek and many times one finds oneself in front a modern Greek discourse.

In a way in our opinion this sermon is the key for the perusal of the rest of the manuscript. While nothing is known of the real Panagos and Chrestos nor were they sanctified to our knowledge[28], Prince Brâncoveanu was recently and his own story of martyrdom is well-known. One might suppose that Karandinos’ first intention was to „sanctify" Brâncoveanu but he was prevented by the fabulous wealth in the latter’s possession. Hence after thorough study the Domna tragedy meant to be played inside the church. Maybe the second tragedy followed suit in this way as well.
Face to face Dapontes and Karandinos display common characteristics as is the only so natural Christian informing propension (Karandinos introduces himself as a monk while Dapontes became one in the last part of his life). Nevertheless while Dapontes’ Christian message is either too covert (as is the case with the Women’s Lighthouse) or very general (his edition of Saint Charalambos’ service) or ironic towards the Catholics (his parodies of hymns) Karandinos is an innovator in the Orthodox area and draws his inspiration from the catholics ( a fact which could confirm his being educated in the West with possible support from Brâncoveanu). Karandinos’ intention is to inhance faith by the means he had admired at the catholics.

All the above are a poor source for a chronological evaluation . The two authors could belong to successive generations (Karandinos’coming first) or to the same one. Dapontes seems more remote from Western (any alien or efficient ) realities than Karandinos and that could provide an explanation for his relentless production of verses or stories.Both seem generously gifted in literary talent with the ballance incling though towards the best known of the two, Dapontes.
To end with on the same puzzling way, let us mention that their handwritting is quite alike.

Institute for South East European Studies of the Romanian Academy


[1] As defined in Harold Love’s Attributing authorship,Cambridge,2002.

[2] First discovered and described by us in Lia Brad Chisacof, Post-Byzantine Curriculum and Jesuit tradition: Zacharia’s Karandinos’ Plays in Peuples ,États et nations dans le sud-est de l’Europe, Bucharest, 2004, pp.135-143. The manuscript had been kept in the library of the Romanian Academy eversince 1911 and had a proper entry in the second volume of the Catalogue of Greek manuscripts of that library (ed. N.Camariano)dating from 1940.

[3] A.R. Rangabe, La littérature néohellénique, Berlin 1877.

[4] L’histoire de la litterature neo-grecque Stockholm, Göteborg,Uppsala,1962.

[5] Iannis Kordatos, Ιστορία της νεοελληνικής λογοτεχνίας Athens, 1962.

[6] Linos Politis, A History of Modern Greek Literature, Oxford, 1973, p.92.

[7] In her Περί νεοελληνικού Διαφωτισμού, Athens, 2004, p.84.

[8] A fragment of the introduction reads: «Υπό τοιαύτης αιτίας παρακινούμενος κ’αγώ ο ελάχιστος εν Χριστώ υμών αδελφός εφρόντησα να τυπωθή το παρόν εκκλησιαστικόν βιβλιάριον δι’ιδίων μου αναλωμάτων, εξ ων με ηλέησεν ο πολυεύσπλαγχνος κύριος, και να διαδοθή δωρεάν ταις απανταχού Εκκλησίαις των ορθοδόξων...»

[9] Mss. Gr. 919

[10] In the Byzantine vein and for metaphoric purposes the Turks are called Arabs.

[11] See Oevres de Prévos t sous la direction deJean Sgard,vol.VI, Presses Universitaires de Grenoble,1984.

[12] In Romanian Folk archives, The Institute for Ethnography and Folklore "Constantin Brailoiu"Bucharest, 2001, pp.36-48;678-687.

[13] Whose text was written by Filotei sin Agai Jipei is part of a musical CD i.e. Documente ale culturii musicale vocale în Muntenia Moldova şi Transilvania sec.XVI-XVII (Documents of Vocal Culture in Wallachia, Moldova and Transylvania), 1977, piece no.6

[14] See.Lynette R. Muir The biblical drama of medieval Europe, Cambridge, 1995, p.1and f

[15] Idem , p.70.

[16] See Stephen G.Daitz(ed.) Euripides, Hecuba, Leipzig ,1973, p.4.

[17] E.Hurmuzaki, Documente privitoare la istoria românilor (Documents regarding the history of the Romanians), vol.XIV, part I (1320-1716), Bucharest, 1915.

[18] When the present paper was read at the 3rd Congress of the European Society for Modern Greek Studies in June 2006 Prof. Andrei Pippidi suggested he had found some further data connected to Zacharias Karandinos. Their hopeful future publication will be of real profit for our researches.

[19] S C.N. Constantinides, Higher Education in Byzantium in the Thirteenth and Early Fourteenth Centuries, Nicosia, 1982.See also a mention without any precise data of the fact that` Hecuba by Euripides was "one of the favourite plays of the Byzantine schoolbooks"in The Complete Greek tragedies, vol.III The University of Chicago, 1955, p.489

[20] See. Patricia E. Easterling , Sophocles and the Byzantine Student, in Porphyrogenita, Essays on the History and Literatureof Byzantium and the Latin East in Honour of Julian Chrysostomides, Ashgate, London, 2003 .

[21] See. J.Lindsay, Byzantium into Europe. The Story of Byzantium as the First Europe (326-1204) and its Further Contribution till 1453, London, 1952.

[22] See.W. Tydeman, The Theatre in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 1978; see`also J.S.Tunnison, dramatic Traditions of the Dark`Ages, Chicago, 1907 and G La Piana, The Byzantine thetre, Speculum,11(1936), pp.171-211.

[23] See supra p.32

[24] See. Anggeliki Skarveli-Nikolopoulou,Μαθηματάρια των ελληνικών σχολίων κατά την Τουρκοκρατίκα (Handbooks of the Greek schools during the Tuirkish rule), Athens, 1994.

[25] See. A. Pippidi , Un episod al relaţiilor româno-engleze: Corespondenţa dintre Constantin Brâncoveanu şi lordul Paget în Epoca Brâncovenească , Bucharest, 1987.

[26] See.W.H.McCabe,An Introduction to the Jesuit Theatre, The Institute of Jesuit Sources, St.Louis, 1983.

[27] As those displayed in Medieval Church Music-Dramas , University Press of Virginia, 1977.

[28] See N.M. Vaporis witnesses For Christ; Orthodox Christian Neomartyrs Of The Ottoman Period 1437-1860, Chicago, 1995.