Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Akritic songs from Cyprus

The above songs are from the album Στες Ακρες Των Ακρων, which consists of a number of Akritic songs from Cyprus. The songs are: 1. Ο ΣΑΡΑΤΖΗΝΟΣ. 2. Τ'ΑΙ ΓΙΩΡΚΟΥ. 3. Ο ΚΑΟΥΡΑΣ. 4. ΤΕΣΣΕΡΑ ΤΖΑΙ ΤΕΣΣΕΡΑ. 5. Η ΤΡΙΑΝΤΑΦΥΛΛΕΝΗ.

The composer is Μιχάλης Χριστοδουλίδης and the singers Αρετή Κασάπη and Κώστας Χαραλαμπίδης.


Hermes said...

The Akritic Cycle is one of the most interesting areas of Greek history; however, it appears not much work has been done on it and few laymen know about Digenis Akritas, Song of Armouris, Andrinikos's Horse and all the other Akritic texts/songs sung by Greek "troubadours" throughout the Byzantine world and right up until today in Cyprus. They would have recited these songs much like Homer did. Apparently, there are hundreds of these pieces.

Hermes said...

I also read somewhere about the King-Hero relationship in the Akritic Cycle and the Homeric cycle i.e. Achilles and Agamemnon and Digenis and the Emperor. This relationship is one of subjection and service but one also of tension and rebellion. The hero is romantic, he want to achieve fame without recourse to titles etc. He wants to make it on their own. It is a crucial part of the story and it is a common theme.

Similarly, the 1821 fighters bristled at having to listen to the Europeanised commanders and administrators - substituting king-hero with institutional authority-hero. However, for the proper functioning of the state, inevitably they must.

I suppose even the Greek Civil War, in a sort of distorted way, was much the same thing.

John Akritas said...

Interesting. One of the things I disliked about Roderick Beaton’s book on Byron and 1821 is its patronising and narrow view of the military leaders – its failure to see them in a broader political/historical/cultural context and his portrayal of them as self-interested and opponents of modernity. (Beaton has, in fact, written about the Akritic cycle, so perhaps he should have been able to make the connections you make). I’m also reading Robert Holland’s book on the EOKA struggle in Cyprus and he is similarly unable to grasp the motivation of EOKA fighters and put it into its correct historical and cultural context. The fact that the nom de guerre of EOKA leader Giorgos Grivas – not a particularly sophisticated man – was ‘Dighenis’ should have indicated to him where Greek nationalism in Cyprus was coming from. (Grivas declared Dighenis to be his favourite heroic figure and, as the songs above indicate, the whole Byzantine epic tradition is a deeply engrained cultural phenomenon in Cyprus).

John Akritas said...

There's a nice blog I've come across devoted to all things Dighenis: http://skourtakrdiaf.blogspot.gr

Hermes said...

But John, as I wrote above, inevitably, the Hero must submit to the King for the proper functioning of the State. In a sense, that is the Tragedy. We admire the Hero, we write songs about them, dance to their honour, paint their portrait, but we all know that he must submit. The authorities must take over. Of course, we would never write a song or dance in honour of the authority of the State.

In the modern context, the liberation fighters did a great job and they should be honoured but they should have submitted to the infant Greek state. The country cannot be administered by warlords and no foreign power, and we needed foreign assistance, wants to deal with a chaotic state.

The problems with a lot of these xenoi writing about Greece is that, despite how liberal they claim to be, there remains a residual imperial posture. They can never apply the equal right to self determination to a small nation as they can to their own Great Power. I recently read The Sleepwalkers by Clarke and although a good read, he writes as if the Serbs should have accepted their lot under Austro-Hungarian domination.

Another thing I learnt is that the Serbs were far behind us in terms of administering a proper state, political culture, economic development.

I know this blog on the Akritic Cycle. However, the whole Cycle needs a good treatment in English to reach a wider audience. The genre has not found its Burkhardt, Runciman, Herrin.

John Akritas said...

Of course, you’re right about the need for fighters to ultimately submit to the state. This cult of the rebel in modern Greek culture has been to the detriment of the state and development of the common or public good. (Incidentally, I believe Samaras has a strong authoritarian streak and he really wouldn’t mind developing the Greek state along the lines of Erdogan in Turkey. I suspect Samaras quite admires Erdogan. For example, manipulating the justice system to throw Golden Dawn in jail is something Erdogan would have done). The other thing with rebels – or with rebel wars – is that you don’t always attract men and women with pure hearts to the cause. You will always attract a minority who revel in violence and the power it brings them and they cannot abandon the old ways when the time for state-building comes. These people are essentially thugs and gangsters, who have found an outlet and justification for their predilection to violence in a political cause. This is a perennial problem with armed struggles.

Hermes said...

Precisely. You cannot develop a functional state or a common good when the "fighters" rule the roost. Ultimately, the fighters are co-opted by the State to do its bidding that is cannot do through democratic or legal processes or they are co-opted by oligarchic or foreign interests. This is the bane of modern Greece. It runs through the whole polity and infects almost all institutions when it suits them. It is not only the far Left and Right. For example, the unofficial Church will sometimes identify with the rebels when it suits their interests. Also, the media barons will do this also.

Ironically, Greece was unfortunate that it did not go through a authoritarian bureaucratic period in the 19th century like much of northern Europe because even though this authoritarian power gradually became democratised in the 20th century, it left intact the instruments available to democratic governments and the State to be able to govern efficiently.