Greece Literature:The Literary Influences of The West

By | August 6, 2021


In the sec. XIII Greece opens up to literary influences from the West, incorporating motifs, metric forms and themes especially from France and Italy. Representative of this period (1204-1453) are the Chronicle of Morea, of purely historical and linguistic interest, which narrates the occupation of the Peloponnese by the Franks and which reflects the ideals of chivalry imported from France; the Achilleide, a mythological-chivalric novel whose structure closely follows that of Dighenìs; a group of novels in political verse (Imberio and Margarona, Florio and Plaziaflora, Callimaco and Crisorroe, Beltandro and Crisanza, Libistro and Rodamne), all dated between the sec. XIV and XV, of purely western influence but strongly imbued with a Hellenic atmosphere, with numerous elements of oriental culture and tradition. From a linguistic point of view, they represent the result of the encounter between popular and learned elements.


With the fall of Constantinople (1453) one of the darkest periods of neo-Greek literature opens, during which there is a decline in literary production in mainland Greece. According to computerannals, culture remains the prerogative of those few intellectuals who remained at home, such as G. Etolo, C. Lùkaris, M. Kastorianòs, V. Stavrinòs, etc. Literary production essentially consists of works of theological or philosophical subject, chronographs in demotic (ie popular) language and lamentations on the fall of Constantinople. Most of the scholars, on the other hand, spread around Europe, in search of a cultural space more suited to their needs, spreading everywhere ancient and modern works that provide material of enormous importance to cultural movements such as Humanism. and Renaissance. The exodus occurs above all to Venice, which has always had close ties with the Heptanese and Crete, but also to other cities in Italy. Consistent Greek communities are formed, schools are founded (the Cottoniana and the Flanghiniana in Padua and Venice; the Greek College in Rome) and printers are opened, such as that of Manutius in Venice, which print exclusively Greek texts. The intellectuals who gravitate around these communities are numerous; we mention only a few: G. Trapezunzio (1396-1486), M. M. Margunio (1549-1602), N. Sofianòs (XVI century), L. Allacci (1586-1669), M. Kariofillis (1565-1635)), Th. Koridalléos (1565-1635), the Làskaris brothers. In the sec. XVI and XVII, while in mainland Greece the languishing culture and literary activity is above all in ecclesiastical hands and destined for conservation and reproduction, a lively and popular literature in the demotic language flourishes on the islands. Due to their strategic position, the Aegean islands were the bridge between East and West, a meeting point between rough Asian culture and Western Humanism. The fusion between the two cultures takes place both in the contents, with the adoption of typically Italian and French themes, and in the form, with the now no longer episodic use of the western rhyme and meter. The most representative examples of this flowering can be found in Cyprus, Rhodes and Crete. In Cyprus the names of L. Machieràs and G. Bustronios dominate with their chronicles of the events of the island throughout the century. XV. We also remember the Song of Arodafnusa and a translation of the Canzoniere di Petrarca, the work of an unknown lover of Italian letters. In Rhodes stands the name of E. Georgilla, author of The Plague of Rhodes and Historical Interpretation of Belisarius. But it is in Crete that the best works of this period can be found. Among the most important names we remember that of L. Della Porta and S. Sachlikis, both known for some works of a moral nature; Bergàdis, M. Faliero, I. Pikatoros and M. Defaranas, for the works united by the use of the theme of the dream; E. Sklavos, A. Achelis and M. Zane Bunialìs, for works on historical subjects. There is also a large group of compositions belonging to the so-called Cretan theater, some of which are by V. Kornáros and G. Chortatzis, the two greatest poets of Crete. Therefore, some tragedies (King Rodolino, Zeno, Erofile, Evjena), some comedies (Panoria, Stathis, Katsurbos, Fortunatos), a religious drama (The sacrifice of Abraham) and finally two epic-lyric works, the Bella pastora and the Erotòcrito, most representative of Cretan literature since they contain all the aspects present in the works cited above: Italian influence, Western metrics, strong Hellenic atmosphere. With the fall of Crete into the hands of the Turks (1669) all these works are brought to the islands of the Eptanese, where a certain literary activity continues even if in a limited way.

Greece Literature - The Literary Influences of The West