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LOVE IN THE CRETAN POETRY OF THE RENAISSANCE AND THE FOLK ART

Schoinoplokaki E1, Zaneka S.2, Kalathaki M3,

1.
Teacher of Castelli Kissamos Lyceum, Chania, Crete, Greece
2.
Ph.D., Med, Teacher of 1st Lyceum of Chania, Crete, Greece
3
Ph.D., Med, School Advisor for Secondary Science Teachers of West Crete, Greece
evaschoino@googlemail.com

During the Renaissance, Europeans saw love and marriage as two important, but very
different, parts of life. As the basic building block of society, it involved the expectations of
families and communities, not just the wishes of two individuals. However, the very fact that
love often conflicted with these practical concerns created some of the world's great literature
and folk art. Two Italian writers of the 1300s, Dante Alighieri and Petrarch, which are
considered precursors of Renaissance presented a beloved woman as a source of inspiration
and a symbol of female perfection. European poetry in the following centuries followed their
lead, treating love as an experience above and beyond ordinary life. Cretan poetry also is
moving in the same motif presented love as a pure and selfless emotion. Renaissance thinkers
viewed "platonic" love as the highest and noblest form of love. This concept of love was based
on the ideas of the Neoplatonists (3rd-6th century AD), a group of philosophers who had given
new interpretations to the works of the ancient Greek thinker Plato. They saw love as a path
to the divine, which was the source of the beloved's beauty.
“Erotokritos” (Greek: Ἐρωτόκριτος) is a romance composed by Vitsentzos Kornaros in
early 17th century (1635-1645) Crete. It consists of 10,012 fifteen-syllable rhymed verses. It is
written in the Cretan dialect of the Greek language. Its central theme is love
between Erotokritos and Aretousa. Around this theme, revolve other themes such as honour,
friendship, bravery and courage. “Erotokritos” constitute classic example of
Greek Renaissance literature and is considered to be the most important work of Cretan
literature. The poet narrates the trials and tribulations suffered by two young lovers,
Erotokritos and Aretousa, daughter of Heracles, King of Athens. The play takes place in ancient
Athens, but the world displayed is a complex construct which does not correspond to any
particular historical period. Alongside references to classical Greece there are anachronisms
and many elements peculiar to Western Europe, such as the jousting competition. The work
is divided in the following five parts: After several years of marriage, a daughter (Aretousa) is
born to the King of Athens (Heracles) and his wife. The son of the faithful adviser to the king
(Erotokritos) falls in love with the princess. The girl gradually falls in love with the unknown
singer. The couple begins to secretly meets, under the window of Aretousa. The girl pleads
with Erotokritos to ask her father to allow them to marry. Naturally, the king is angry with the
audacity of the young man and has him exiled. The girl immediately gets engaged secretly to
Erotokritos before he leaves the city. Aretousa refuses to consider any marriage proposals and
is imprisoned by the king alongside her faithful nanny. After three years, when the Vlachs
besiege Athens, Erotokritos reappears, his true identity concealed through magic. In a battle
he saves the life of the king and gets wounded in the process. Erotokritos finally reveals
himself after breaking the spell that concealed his identity. The king accepts the marriage and
reconciles with Erotokritos and his father, and Erotokritos ascends to the throne of Athens
(Politis, 1980).
“Erophile” (Greek: Ερωφίλη), is the most famous and often performed tragedy of
the Cretan theater. It was written around 1600 in Rethymno in Crete (then a Venetian colony)
by Georgios Chortatzis and first published in 1637 in Venice, probably after Chortatzis' death.
Although the exact date is unknown, Chortatzis must have started to work on Erophili during
the last few years of the 16th century. As was customary at the time, Erophili was written
in verse. The composition consists of 3205 verses in Cretan Greek. Erophili is organized in five
acts, between which there are four lyrical interludes (intermezzi). The interludes are inspired
by the Rinaldo and Armida episode from Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered. Filogonos,
king of Memphis in Egypt, murders his brother to gain his throne and marries his widow.
Filogonos has a daughther, Erophili, which he raises together with Panaretos, an orphan boy
of royal descent. Due to his competence at war, Panaretos is proclaimed general of the King's
army. A love affair develops between Panaretos and Erophili and leads to their secret
marriage. Filogonos, who planned to wed Erophili to the heir of a rival kingdom, asks
Panaretos to act as an intermediary. This results in the secret marriage's disclosure and the
King's rage. Filogonos orders the death of Panaretos and sends his head, heart and hands as a
wedding gift to his daughter. Upon receiving the appalling gift, Erophili stabs herself to death.
The chorus of maids overthrows Filogonos and kills him. Along with Erotokritos, a long
romantic poem, Erophili stands at the apogee of the Cretan Renaissance literature. It became
a popular read in several Greek-speaking regions and parts of it were even orally passed from
generation to generation (Politis, 1980).
Sousta, the Cretan love dance, which is danced by one or more couples (a man dances
facing a woman) incorporates plenty of elements from the ancient pyrrhic dance. This is
proved by the way in which it is danced. Women and men dancers, one after the other, form
a semicircle, holding each other´s hands at the height of their shoulders with their arms
bended. After dancing a whole circle they are split in two teams (one of men and one of
women), the one facing the other and having a distance of approximately three meters
between them. Then, the men approach the women and a kind of a dance dialogue takes
place between them. During the dance they touch each other, they part, the one passes under
the arms of the other, they embrace, they come closer but then they go away. All these make
a beautiful and amorous dance. The man and the woman, standing the one opposite the other
"battle" to conquer each other, to fall in love with each other and finally to love each other.
The man with vivid hand gestures and virile steps full of lust tries to make her respond to his
invitation. The woman with cute mincing steps, beautiful subtle hand movements and
passionate head bows, sometimes encourages the man while others she lets him down.
Sometimes she approaches him and gives him hope while others she avoids him. In the end,
however, the desirable union is achieved. The three basic steps of the dance which look like
little jumps and make the dancers´ bodies look like being pushed by a spring, must be the
reason that the dance during the Venetian sovereignty (1204-1669) changed its name into
"sousta" from the Italian word susta, which means spring. The quick rhythm of the
accompanying music, which can accept a lot of variations allows the couple a great freedom
of initiatives and movements in the space and less austerity in expression. The accompanying
music, in 2/4 time is played either by a lyra or a violin, accompanied by a lute or mandolin (or
ascompandoura in the mountainous regions). The main characteristic of "sousta" is the hand
movements. The hands become a principal means of expression, since there are some hand
movements which are combined with foot movements. The couple must also match
appropriately so as to form the traditional dance patterns.
There are many theories about who, how and for how long we fall in love. Experiments
on humans are difficult and the human behavior very complicated, so it is not easy to clarify
the chemical basis of human love. The psycho-compulsory disorder and love could have
similar chemical profiles, when we say that I am mad, crazy, of love. The serotonin levels of
the psycho-compulsory and the lovers was 40% below normal. Evolutionary psychology
argues that we tend to feel attractive, hence we select as love partners, people shown us
healthy. Maybe the choice of love partner is simply a matter of smell ... although we all say
that I married him because he is handsome, intelligent, tender-hearted ... (NGJ, 2006). Several
authors refer to substances that make someone lovable, as in Shakespeare’s Dream of
Summer Night. Pheromones are volatile substances, emitted by female insects, to attract
males for fertilization, mechanism operated commercially in fly-traps where entrapped male,
ecologically regulated populations, eg olive fly (Varvoglis, 1992). In some surveys, similar
substances to the pheromones of insects have been detected in men’s sweat with analog
properties.
In References, following, are highlighted some videos, introducing to the sense and
climate of the renaissance poems turned into traditional songs and music, also traditional
Cretan Dances for Love (Sousta). Referring to love in the modern years in Greece, suggested
the poem “Axion Esti” of Odysseas Elytis with English lyrics. In the same field of this article are
proposed some other videos of traditional Cretan music and dances that are common to the
nowadays’ way of dancing and singing in Crete.

REFERENCES
LOVE AND MARRIAGE DURING THE RENAISSANCE
http://www.encyclopedia.com/article-1G2-3409200271/love-and-marriage.html

EROTOKRITOS
Politis L., Ιστορία της Νεοελληνικής Λογοτεχνίας (History of Greek literature), Αθήνα 1980, σ.
77-82, Mορφωτικό Ίδρυμα Εθνικής Τραπέζης, Γ΄ έκδοση.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erotokritos
Erotokritos by N. Xylouris (folk song)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P45rNk0Xu1Q
Erotokritos interpreted by 77 artists
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vEb_4tiS9bM#
Erotokritos, Aretousa’s complaint
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73P2Iw-Rtmo
Erotokritos - Music: Yannis Markopoulos
From the project "erotokritos and virtue" opera in 2 acts
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PLRvdml9AM
Erotokritos song – Elefteria Arvanitaki (With English Subtitles / Lyrics)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jou_Sx6aF-M

EROPHILI
Politis L., Ιστορία της Νεοελληνικής Λογοτεχνίας (History of Greek literature), Αθήνα 1980, σ.
68-69, Mορφωτικό Ίδρυμα Εθνικής Τραπέζης, Γ΄ έκδοση.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erofili#cite_ref-1
Erophili, Panaretos’ song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CAXlbSXkQM
Erophili, The chorus of love
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgHMPtNKW04

“AXION ESTI” POEM BY O. ELYTIS
Bloods of Love - Axion Esti ( With English lyrics)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLfsipsIaLQ

THE CHEMISTRY OF LOVE
NGJ (2006) The Chemistry of Love, National Geographic Greece, February 2006, printed form
Varvoglis A (1992) Chemistry Distillate Editions Trochalia, Athens

SOYSTA
Michael Kallergis Sousta, Greek Television, "Cheers" on NET TV
http://youtu.be/P1A7o-0PTfA
Kourites - Sousta - Megaron, Athens 02/11/2014
http://youtu.be/VWYjhc9Mxn0
Sousta Cretan dance TV show "The Place and the Song" Greek TV channel ET3
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgFKX-4_NA4

OTHER CRETAN FOLKLORE DANCES
"If you want to know" - Kourites - Martsakis Skordalos (Pentozali Martsakis), Pentozalis Dance
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYZMrFWnMes
"From Lasithi to Chania" Kourites - Skordalos Martsakis Psaroudakis, Chaniotikos Syrtos Dance
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zACulAjHPwI
"Kourites-Martsakis Skordalos (Cretan - Martsakis Skordalos) Anogianos Pidihtos/Pyrrhic
Dance
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBE0R-pa4J4
Vassilis Skoulas | (Cheers 2014) TV show "Cheers guys," Greek Television, Alpha Channel,
Maleviziotis Dance
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlPcQBxHfYk
Theatro "Dora Stratou" 4 June 2014 (12/17) Cretan dances Syrtos Dance
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySPAIarbVG8
Theatro "Dora Stratou" 4 June 2014 (17/17) Kalamatianos Dance
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDl-MU1EFKg

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