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Erotokritos and Aretousa. Painting by Theophilos Hatzimihail (1933).

Erotokritos (Greek: Ἐρωτόκριτος) is a romance composed by Vikentios Kornaros in early 17th century Crete. It consists of 10,012 fifteen-syllable rhymed verses, the last twelve of which refer to the poet himself. It is written in the Cretan dialect of the Greek language. Its central theme is love between Erotokritos (only referred to in the work as Rotokritos or Rokritos) and Aretousa. Around this theme, revolve other themes such as honour, friendship, bravery and courage. Erotokritos and Erophile by Georgios Hortatzis constitute classic examples of Greek Renaissance literature and are considered to be the most important works of Cretan literature. It remains a popular work to this day, largely due to the music that accompanies it when it is publicly recited. A particular type of rhyming used in the traditional mantinades was also the one used in Erotokritos.


The poet narrates the trials and tribulations suffered by two young lovers, Erotokritos and Aretousa, daughter of Heracles, King of Athens.


Manuscript of Erotokritos. From the Ionian Islands, c. 1710. Now at the British Library.

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 particular to Western Europe, such as the jousting competition. The work is divided in the following five parts:

I. 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. Because he cannot reveal his love, he sings under her window in the evenings. The girl gradually falls in love with the unknown singer. Heracles, when he learns about the singer, organizes an ambush to arrest him, but Erotokritos with his beloved friend kills the soldiers of the king. Erotokritos, realising that his love cannot have a happy ending travels to Chalkida to forget. During his absence, his father falls ill and when Aretousa visits him, she finds in the room of Erotokritos a painting of hers and the lyrics he sang. When he returns, he discovers the absence of his drawing and songs and learns that the only person that visited them was Aretousa. Realizing that his identity was revealed and that he may be at risk, he stays at home pretending to be ill. Aretousa sends him a basket of apples to wish him well and as an indication she shares his feelings.

II. The king organizes a jousting competition for the entertainment of his daughter. Many noblemen from around the known world participate and Erotokritos is the winner.

III. The couple begins to secretly meet 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. Simultaneously a marriage proposal for Arethusa arrives by the king of Byzantium. The girl immediately gets engaged secretly to Erotokritos before he leaves the city.

IV. 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.

V. In order to thank the wounded stranger the king offers him his daughter as spouse. Aretousa refuses to accept this marriage and in discussion with the disguised Erotokritos she persists in her refusal. Erotokritos submits her to tests to confirm her faith and 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.

Key Characteristics[edit]

Although with regard to the evolution of the plot, Erotokritos follows all the characteristics of a knightly novel. Kornaros presents some particularities with regard to the structure, with characteristics derived from other literary species. Apart from the epic elements, the presence of dramatic features is also intense: the division into five parts reflects the pentameric division of classical drama, while the theatrical character imparts the frequent presence of the dialogue. The manuscript of the work does not show the pentameric division, which appears only in printed publications, but it is considered by the scholars to be organic and related to the conception of the work by the poet[1]

The epic-heroic and erotic element referred to as thematic cores already in the first verses ("and even the riots, the conceited and the weights / of Eros the baptism and kissing the grace"), coexist in the work divided symmetrically, with erotic superior to the first, the third and the fifth, while the heroic in the second and the fourth, while being interrelated, with one feeding the other: Erotokritos' love for Aretousa is motivated for his participation in the storm, while the man and a bid to the country's king is the fact that allows the success of the relationship.

The emphasis on food and erotic imagery is also seen clearly in the work . The importance of the issue of social discrimination also plays a very important role, and the importance of the issue of social discrimination is also crucial: the love of the two heroes is in contradiction with established social conventions and puts them in conflict with their environment, but at the end of the project, "personal virtues" prevail.[2]

Kornaros' significant innovation is the emergence of the hero's psychological state and the convincing justification of the motivations of their behavior.

Use of Language[edit]

The language of Erotokritos is the Cretan dialect, mostly within the idiom of Sitia.[3] Typical dialectical formulas such as the articles τση (της) and τσι (τις) are used, the questioning pronoun (e) in the place of the word what.[4] Articles, in the place of reference pronouns to speak of the final one in the general plural and in the plural person (they haven't spoken, they wish to speak), place the pronoun after the verb (assimilation of the climate, for example, have gone), use of the pronounced pronoun self and self-indulgence (according to him). In particular, it is based on the Eastern Cretan idiom and displays its typical characteristics, such as the use of pronoun τως instead of τους (τα πάθη τως), the use of the past-tense augment η- (ήκαμε, ήβανε), the elimination of the -ι- after -σ- (να τσ' αξώση), as well as the passive aorist -θηκα, -θηκες, -θηκε (in place of -θη, -θης, -θη(ν),, for example, εχάθηκε instead of εχάθη).[4]

Some characteristics of Erotokritos' voice are an assimilation of the pronounced words in a word, followed by λ, ρ or continuous friction θ, φ, χ (e.g. tη χέρα, έλαψα, μέφεται, αθιβολή, ). In other cases the word of the article and the semi-text [j], when in the coexistence there is a vowel, e, (for example the julli, the jarrows). Submissive voweling, when preceding a continuous allegorical consonant, that is to say, the sui, ξi, ψi, ζi (anipsos, axos) complexes.[5] The language of Erotokritos is based on the spoken Cretan dialect (mainly in the idiom of Sitia), but it differs from it, if compared to comedies or various documents, since it has few words derived from Italian, while on the contrary it often has more lexical features.[5]

The lyrics are also taken care of: the hammerings are avoided and there are no imperfections in rhyme. And lyrics, like the language, differ in some features from the folk song: Shifting to the position of the syllables in the verse (even in single syllables, although the yambus is emphasized by the weights), the frequent presence of strikes and punctuation within the verse, elements that contribute to the rhythmic variety and the avoidance of monotony[5]

Philological issues[edit]

There are numerous adaptations and reworks of this play that there is speculation that other plays may be earlier versions of Erotokritos, such as an earlier work known as Thysia.[6] There are three literary issues surrounding Erotokritos. the most important, on which the others depend, is the issue of the poet's identity, as the name Vitsentzos Kornaros was widespread in Crete. The other two important problems are the issue of the dating of the work and the question of the speculated Italian model on which the poet was based. For the subject of the poet, it is accepted by most scholars to identify with Vikidzzo Kornaros of Jacob, brother of the Venetian author Andreas Kornaros.[5] Vicentzos, according to archival sources, was born in 1553 and died in 1613 or 1614. Based on this evidence, it is concluded that Erotokritos was written between 1590 and 1610. [10] On the Italian model on which Kornaros was based, the various adaptations of the French work stand out from the study of two, one of 1543, and one of Angelo Albani's diameters, entitled Innamoramento de due fidelissimi amanti Paris en Vienna, 1626. An examination of all Italian adaptations in relation to Erotokritus[5] has led to the conclusion that the earlier version was the one used by Kornaros, a point accepted by several philologists.[5] This view agrees with the poet's proposed identification


The direct model of the work is the French popular medieval romance Paris et Vienne composed by Pierre de la Cépède, which was printed in 1487 and was widely circulated, having been translated to many European languages. Kornaros most likely became familiar with the French original through the Italian translation, since he was unlikely to understand French. He adapted the original creatively and his adaptation displays some merits compared to both the original and other adaptations. The plot is better structured, the characters fewer, some repetitions are reduced and there is more emphasis on the development of the psychology of the heroes. The first part of the work follows the original. The two works differ significantly after the failed marriage proposal. In Paris et Vienne two lovers eloped and attempted to make an escape, but after a while the girl is captured by people of her father and Paris travels in the East. The heroic act that contributes to the pair's reunion in the original is the release of the king from captivity, after he was arrested in an abortive crusade. The end of both plays is similar with the strange benefactor offering to marry the princess and her accepting only after his true identity is revealed. Apart from the French romance, the influence of Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto is evident, particularly in the epic elements of the work. The work was also influenced by the Greek literary tradition and specifically demotic songs and proverbs as well as other texts such as Erofili, Apokopos and Penthos Thanatou.

Manuscript and printed edition[edit]

The work was very popular and circulated in manuscript form throughout the 17th century. In 1713 it was printed in Venice by some Cretan who had collected several manuscripts of the work, and relied on them to deliver a sufficiently valid and reliable version. There are no extant manuscripts of the work except for an unfinished one of 1710. It is decorated with elegant miniatures, but is less valid than the Venetian version in its delivery of the text, because it alters the character of the vernacular language at places. Probably the copying process stopped after the release of the printed version in 1713. Several reprints of the original edition followed, and the first modern edition appeared in 1915 by Stefanos Xanthoudides.


Erotokritos sets great store by true love, friendship, courage, and patriotism, and this is the reason for its later popularity all over Greece. It was a source of inspiration for Dionysios Solomos and influenced Greek poets as diverse as Kostis Palamas, Kostas Krystallis, and George Seferis. A complete translation to English was made by Theodore Stephanides in verse, and by Betts, Gauntlett and Spilias in prose.[7] Several groups of renowned Cretan musicians have added selected parts of the poem to their music, often exploring the boundaries of their local musical tradition.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kallinis, George (2016). "Other Worlds in Eritokritos" (PDF). Proceedings of 12th International Congress of Cretan Studies.
  2. ^ Valadakis, Kalliope (2010). Daughters out of line: The marriage plot in three paradigmatic texts of the Cretan Renaissance, 'Erotokritos', 'Panoria' and 'Vasileus O Rodolinos' (Thesis). ProQuest 89234490.
  3. ^ D., R. M. (1915). "Review of Βιτξέντξου Κορνάρου Ἐρωτόκριτος". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. 35: 154. doi:10.2307/624532. JSTOR 624532.
  4. ^ a b Horrocks, Geoffrey (1997). Greek: A History of its Language and its Speakers. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 308–310.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Ανέμη - Ψηφιακή Βιβλιοθήκη Νεοελληνικών Σπουδών - Αναζήτηση (in Greek). Retrieved 2018-04-29.
  6. ^ Mavrogordato, John (1928). "The Cretan Drama: A Postscript". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. 48 (2): 243–246. doi:10.2307/624966. JSTOR 624966. S2CID 163545354.
  7. ^ Vitsenzos Kornaros: "Erotokritos. A translation with introduction and notes by Gavin Betts, Stathis Gauntlett and Thanasis Spilias." Byzantina Australiensia vol. 14 (Melbourne 2004). Australian Association for Byzantine Studies. <"Australian Association for Byzantine Studies: Erotokritos". Archived from the original on 2009-10-19. Retrieved 2009-10-12.>.


  1. >Αλεξίου Στ., «Εισαγωγή» στο: Βιτσέντζος Κορνάρος, Ερωτόκριτος, επιμέλεια Στ. Αλεξίου, Εστία, Νέα Ελληνική Βιβλιοθήκη, 1995
  2. Dimitriou, Anna (2013). Transforming Paramythi in diasporic literature: five Greek Australian writers (Thesis). hdl:10536/DRO/DU:30062438. S2CID 186491268.
  3. D. Holton, Μελέτες για τον Ερωτόκριτο και άλλα νεοελληνικά κείμενα - Studies on Erotokritos and other Modern Greek texts, ed. Kastaniotis, Athens 2000. (in Greek)
  4. D. M. L. Philippides, D. Holton, J. L. Dawson, Ερωτόκριτος: του δίσκου τα γυρίσματα [Erotokritos: as the disk spins], Hermes Publishing, Athens 2013. CD-ROM (Greek and English interface). ISBN 978-960-320-218-9.
  5. G. Χατζιδάκι,(1915) «Περί της γλώσσης και της γραμματικής τού Ερωτοκρίτου», στον Στέφ. Ξανθουδίδη, Ερωτόκριτος, Ηράκλειο 458-68
  6. G. Horrocks,(1997) Greek: A history of the language and its speakers, Addison Wesley Publishing Company, σελ. 308-310
  7. Littlewood, A.R. (January 1993). "The erotic symbolism of the apple in late Byzantine and meta-Byzantine demotic literature". Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies. 17 (1): 83–104. doi:10.1179/byz.1993.17.1.83. S2CID 162075867.
  8. Mavrogordato, John (1928). "The Cretan Drama: A Postscript". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. 48: 243–246. doi:10.2307/624966. JSTOR 624966. S2CID 163545354.
  9. D., R. M. (1915). "Review of Βιτξέντξου Κορνάρου Ἐρωτόκριτος". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. 35: 154. doi:10.2307/624532. JSTOR 624532.
  10. Sifakis, G. M. (1992). "Homeric Survivals in the Medieval and Modern Greek Folksong Tradition?". Greece & Rome. 39 (2): 139–154. doi:10.1017/S0017383500024128. JSTOR 643263. S2CID 162263562.
  11. Strauss, Johann (22 January 2016). "The Nineteenth Century Ottoman Translation of the 'Erotokritos'". Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies. 16: 189–201. doi:10.1017/S0307013100007618.

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