Is Greek pop culture less interested in the Middle Ages than Western pop culture?

By: | Post date: 2017-07-31 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture, Mediaeval Greek, Modern Greek

I’m OP. I’ve asked this, because I’ve seen an erudite claim that this is the case, from the 80s, and am wondering whether it was true then, and is true now.

The claim comes from the recent edition of Stephanos Sachlikis’ poetry. (You know someone’s obscure when their Latin Wikipedia entry is 5 times longer than their English one.) The edition is based on Nikolaos M. Panagiotakis’ work; Panagiotakis died 20 years ago. Its preface includes a lecture Panagiotakis gave 30 years ago, in 1986.

In that lecture, Panagiotakis says that the number of Greeks who would be interested in Sachlikis, however foul-mouthed he was, was minimal, because Greek pop culture was indifferent to the Middle Ages. He contrasted that with the popularity of the Middle Ages in English and German pop culture, and “in the past forty years” (so since WWII) in France and Italy as well. As evidence, he mentioned that his fellow Greeks read Umberto Eco’s Name Of The Rose looking for political judgements, because they were unable culturally to read it for what it was: “a clumsy detective novel written by a brilliant mediaevalist.”

He also predicted that as fads come and go, the Western Middle Ages—and even the Greek Middle Ages (which is not just Byzantine but also French and Italian rule) could eventually become fashionable in Greece.

Now, there has been a little historical fiction set in the Middle Ages in Greek; I’m thinking in particular of Princess Isabeau, published in 1937 and set in the Peloponnese of 1293, about Isabella of Villehardouin. And of course in high culture, Kostis Palamas worked Basil II into his poetic mythology, and Cavafy cherry-picked episodes from the Byzantine as well as the Hellenistic era. And when I was a kid, Porphyry and Blood was a historical soap about Romanos IV Diogenes, which made Michael Psellos a villain.

(As has happened with so many old TV shows, the tapes have been wiped, and the show has not been preserved. I caught the last ever screening, in 1981.)

EDIT: Add “In hoc signo vinces”, about Constantine the Great, from 1973, from the same soapie-peddler, Nikos Foskolos: Εν τούτω νίκα.

But I suspect Panagiotakis was onto something: there doesn’t seem to have been in Greece or Cyprus the profusion of mediaeval-related novels, let alone hit TV series or dinner theatre restaurants, that there have been in Western Europe.

I don’t even know whether the Society for Creative Anachronism flourishes in Greece. I know it flourishes in Australia, and I saw a TV show once where a bearded gentleman, in leather armour and a quite familiar accent, stared at the camera and said “Yeah, so we were playing the Byzantines, and they were playing the Crusaders, and, aaah, basically we kicked their arses, mate!”

That’s a historically ossified account. Very eager to know whether Game Of Thrones has landed on fertile ground in Greece, or whether its mediaevalism was novel to audiences.

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