Byzantine novel


Byzantine novel

Under the Comnenian dynasty, Byzantine writers of twelfth century Constantinople reintroduced the ancient Greek romance novel, imitating its form and time but Christianizing its content. Hence the Byzantine stories are traditional in their plot structure and setting (featuring complex turns of events taking place in the ancient Mediterranean, complete with the ancient gods and beliefs) but are also medieval, clearly belonging to the era of the Crusades as they reflect customs and beliefs of that time. It is important to note that a break of eight centuries exists between the last surviving romance novel of late antiquity and the first of this medieval revival.

Only four of these Byzantine novels exist today, just one of which is written in prose: "Hysimine and Hysimines" by Eusthatios Makrembolites. Two are in the duodecasyllable metre--"Rodánthe and Dosiklís" by Theodore Prodromos and "Drósilla and Charaklís" by Niketas Eugenianos—and one is in "political verse", "Arístandros and Kallithéa" by Constantine Manasses, but exists only in fragments. Of these four romances, two have been translated into English:

*"A Byzantine Novel: Drosilla and Charikles by Niketas Eugenianos" translated by Joan Burton (Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., 2004).

*"Ismene and Ismenias," translated from the French by L.H. Le Moine, (London and Paris: 1788). This was also translated into German in 1989. A work describing in detail all four twelfth century Byzantine romances (as well as those of later centuries), including complete plot summaries, is "The Medieval Greek Romance" by Roderick Beaton (1996, 2nd Revision).

Later medieval romance novels from around the fourteenth century continue the tradition. These are the anonymous "Belthandro and Chrysantza, Kallimachos and Chrysorroi," and "Livistros and Rodamini"—available in English translation as "Three Medieval Greek Romances: Velthandros and Chrysandza, Kallimachos and Chrysorroi, Livistros and Rodamni," translated by Gavin Betts, Garland Library of Medieval Literature, 98 (B), (New York & London: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1995). One of them is available in French: M Pichard, "Le roman de Callimaque et de Chrysorrhoé: Texte établi et traduit," (Paris: 1956).

Still other medieval romance novels include the anonymous "The Tale of Achilles", "The Tale of Troy: a Byzantine Iliad," "War of Troy" (the latter in twelfth century Old French), "Florios and Platza-Flora" (in Tuscan and Old French), and "Imberios and Margarona" (in Old French). Finally there is Giovanni Boccaccio's "Thesiad" (in Italian).

The inspiration for these medieval prose and poem novels, the ancient Greek romance, also led to works in the Renaissance and Elizabethan eras.

ee also

*Byzantine literature


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