21 May 2011

Bessarion to Theodoros, Part Two

The empty throne room at the palace of Mistra
before the grotesque archaological reconstruction.

This is the second of Bessarion's two letters to Theodoros II Palaiologos, written in Constantinople in 1436.  For the first, go here.

Explaining this period, Sphrantzes (XXII) says that Theodoros traveled to Constantinople in March 1436 on the same ship as Zoe Paraspondylos who was to be married to Demetrios Palaiologos.  Although he was presenting himself as heir to the throne, John VIII was uneasy about this, much preferring Constantine. (Constantine confided this to Sphrantzes, and Bessarion wrote his two letters.) But plans were worked out that Thomas and Constantine would have the Morea, and Theodoros and Demetrios would remain in Constantinople.

Thus Constantine sailed for the Morea in June, and Theodoros, jealous, followed him immediately.  As suggested in the comments for the previous letter, Theodoros had a difficult personality. Armies were collected and there was some skirmishing.  John sent ambassadors who managed to cool things down for a bit, and followed them up with another embassy that arranged for Constantine to return to Constantinople and for Theodoros to have Mistra again.
* * * * * * 
To the same.

Since frequent correspondence is remembrance, while a long time of silence is forgetfulness, how could anyone blame us for choosing the better: memory and frequent correspondence, and siding with the stronger side, unless it is right to agree that tending to the proper relationship with benefactors and showing gratitude for such good things as are already available to us is a crime. Of course, where there are no great occasions to support memory, then no just debt is owed, but those who fail in remembrance would properly have to observe a decline in the number of those they are neglecting, for there is a recompense that comes about for those who put benefactors to the forefront. In your case, what could anyone forget, or how might anyone in justice fail to recall your kingly soul, the soul of a father, a ruler and a benefactor? For to us you are all these things through your encompassing solicitude, and the benefactions you grant are less part of the burdens of rule but, rather, you pour them out as magnanimous gifts, given by your own hand and from your generosity to us.

I, myself, am aware of the most excellent gifts I have received from you, and no one could ask for more, nor speak of a greater degree of favor. For great things,I am exchanging small things, whose value I would wish to increase, and offering them to those for whom anyone who offers such little things would be presenting himself simply as properly courteous, although there may also perhaps be those to whom small things will appear to be just what they are, small. To you kings, who practice magnanimity, what is brought to you even though small, seems great, for you measure great and small in your own way, differently from us. When you offer great things, you count them as less even than is right and proper, not paying attention to what the recipients deserve, but how much is required by your generosity. When you receive little in return, you think it much, judging things by their intent and setting your measure according to the ability of the giver. You, unless, by some chance you were later at variance with us, your subjects, would not exclude the memory of our good wishes from your soul. You do remain mindful of those who love you. Remaining consistent with yourself and proffering all the things that correspond with what we previously enjoyed from you, may you treat us still in future in these seemly and effective ways. You will confirm our hopes and show yourself in every way the ruler we marvel at. What we say about you concerning your great-spirited and noble soul and intelligence, you yourself will give witness to by the actions you set forth.

* * * * * *

Τῷ αὐτῷ.

   Ὅτι τὸ μὲν πυκνὰ ἐπιστέλλειν ἐστὶ μνημονεύειν, ἀμνημονεῖν δέ γε τὸ (3)
πολύν τινα χρόνον σιγᾶν, πῶς ἄν τις ἡμῖν ἓν τοῦτ’ ἐγκαλῶν, τὴν μνήμην
καὶ τὸ πυκνὰ ἐπιστέλλειν μέμψαιτό γε δικαίως ἅπαξ ἑλομένοις τὸ βέλτιον καὶ (5)
γενομένοις μετὰ τῆς κρείττονος μοίρας, εἰ μὴ καὶ τὸ τὰ εἰκότα περὶ τοὺς
εὐεργέτας τηρεῖν καὶ ταῖς ὑπάρξεσιν ἀγαθῶν εἰδέναι χάριν ὁμολογεῖν ἐγκλή-
ματος ἄξιον; καὶ μὴν ὅπου μὲν οὐ μεγάλαι τινὲς ἀφορμαὶ προϋπάρχουσαι
μνήμης, οὐδὲ δίκαιον ὀφείλεται χρέος. οἵ τε ἀμνημονοῦντες ἔχοιεν ἂν παραι-
τήσασθαι, ὧν τε ἀμνημονοῦσιν εἰκότως ὑποίσουσι. συμβαίνει γὰρ αὐτοῖς ἡ (10)
ἀντέκτισις, οἷς αὐτοὶ προκατέθεντο. σοῦ δὲ τί ἄν τις ἢ πῶς ἐπιλάθοιτο
πῶς δ’ ἂν δικαίως ἀμνημονοίη τῆς μεγαλόφρονος ὄντως καὶ βασιλικῆς ἐκείνης
ψυχῆς, τοῦ πατρός, τοῦ δεσπότου, τοῦ εὐεργέτου; πάντα γὰρ ταῦτα μετὰ
πολλῆς τῆς περιούσης ἡμῖν <μεριμνᾶς> ἦσθα, ὀλίγα μὲν τῷ τῆς ἀρχῆς χαρι-
ζόμενος ὄγκῳ, παντὸς δὲ πατρὸς μᾶλλον ἡμῖν εὐνοῶν καὶ δαψιλεῖ τῇ χειρὶ (15)
φιλοτίμους καταντλῶν δωρεάς.

    Ἐγὼ μὲν οὖν ἐμαυτῷ συνειδὼς ἁπάντων τετυχηκότι παρὰ σοῦ τῶν
καλλίστων χαρίτων, ὧν οὐκ ἄν τις ᾔτησε πλείους, εὐμενείας οὐδ’ ὅσης εἰπεῖν,
τιμῆς ὅσης ἂν ἴσως ηὐξάμην, μικροῖς τὰ μεγάλα ἀμείβομαι, καὶ οἷς ἄν τις
ἐνδείξαιτο τὸν εὐγνώμονα μόνον τά γε μὴν μικρὰ ταῦτα, ἄλλοις μὲν ἴσως (20)
μικρά, καὶ ὅπερ ἐστί, δόξει. τοῖς δέ γε βασιλεῦσιν ὑμῖν μεγαλοψυχίαν ἀσκοῦσι
καὶ μικρὰ ὄντα τὰ προσαγόμενα μεγάλα δοκεῖ. ἐναντίως ἐφ’ ἑαυτῶν ἢ ἡμῶν
τὸ μέγα μετροῦσι καὶ τὸ μικρόν. μεγάλα μὲν γὰρ παρεχόμενοι μείω ἔτι
λογίζεσθε τοῦ πρέποντος εἶναι καὶ τῆς ἀξίας, οὐχ ὅτου ἄξιοι οἱ λαμβάνοντες
συνορῶντες, ἀλλ’ ὅσα ὑμᾶς χαρίζεσθαι δέον. μικρὰ δὲ ἀπολαμβάνοντες μεγάλα (25)
ἡγεῖσθε, προθέσει τὰ πράγματα κρίνοντες καὶ τῇ τῶν προσαγόντων δυνά-
μει τὸ μέτρον ὁρίζοντες. σὺ δ’ εἰ μὴ μετὰ τοῦτό πω τῶν ὑπηκόων καὶ γνώμῃ
διασταίης ἡμῶν, μηδ’ ἐξέλοις γε τῆς ψυχῆς τῶν εὔνων τὴν μνήμην· ἀλλὰ
μνημονεύεις μὲν τῶν φιλούντων. εὖ δὲ ποιοῖς τοῖς εἰκόσι καὶ δυνατοῖς, αὐτὸς
αὑτῷ συμφωνῶν καὶ συμβαίνοντα παρεχόμενος, οἷς σου πρότερον ἀπηλαύσα- (30)
μεν, πάντα τὰ μετὰ ταῦτα. βεβαιώσεις μὲν ἡμῖν τὰς ἐλπίδας, διὰ πάντων
δὲ τὸν θαυμαστὸν ἐπιδείξεις δεσπότην. καὶ οἷς αὐτοὶ περὶ σοῦ λέγομεν τῆς
μεγαλόφρονος καὶ γενναίας ψυχῆς τε καὶ γνώμης, πράγμασιν αὐτὸς μαρτυρή-
σεις τὴν ἔργῳ παρεχόμενος ἡμῖν μαρτυρίαν.

* * * * * *
The English translation is by Pierre A. MacKay. The Greek text was downloaded from:
Ludwig Mohler, Kardinal Bessarion als Theologe, Humanist und Staatsman. Vol. III, (Neudruck der Ausgabe Paederborn 1942) Scientia Verlag Aalen Ferdinand Schöning. Paderborn 1967. pp. 425—427 (Venice Cod. Marc. gr. 533, fol. 50—51) available here.http://www.kenef.phil.uoi.gr/pdf/34852/34852.pdf

20 May 2011

Bessarion to Theodoros

Court dress from a 15thC fresco, Kariye Djami.  

Theodoros II Palaiologos made his first visit to Constantinople in 1436 -- he had not seen it since he was sent to the Morea as a young child -- ostensibly to take with him an elaborate gold-embroidered epitaphios for the tomb of his parents, but most surely to make himself available for the throne.  He was apparently thrilled beyond expression by his first, adult, real appreciation of The City.  His brother, John, had given him a fine celebratory procession, and he was seeing buildings and churches unimaginable to someone whose idea of sophistication had been formed at Mistra.

Bessarion -- who had spoken at Cleofe's memorial three years earlier -- was then back in Constantinople.  During his few years in Mistra, he had come to know Theodoros quite well, and was keenly aware of his unsuitability.  He wrote Theodoros two letters.  These letters are exceptionally sycophantic, and if one is familiar with other writings of Bessarion, their construction may suggest something of Theodoros' grandiose personality and what was required to get his attention.  He writes from the standpoint of a resident of the Morea, asking Theodoros to come back. He describes Constantinople, and the Morea, as places flowing with milk and honey, descriptions nearly unrecognizable to their contemporaries, but Bessarion was always generous.
* * * * * *
To the Despot Theodoros, Porphyogennetos.

There is that which moves us to sorrow, because an unseasonable loss has overtaken us, distressed as we are by an absence that wastes us and leaves us despairing of anything better; you, however, the place of your birth has found you, perhaps not soon enough, but sincerely and with a great show. The ultimate in honor is the name for it. Your entrance saw a day of festival, and the Despot was received with a brilliant display which the emperor, your dear brother, arranged for you, the ruler of all for all.

Every class and age of the populace that teems in the city crowded together in it and exhibited to whoever was there the delight and exultation in their souls, but perhaps it is right to say that you observed your homeland with equal happiness as you had so long desired it but only now first saw it. For the the earlier time cannot be counted since you were of too tender an age for an infinity of impressions. But now you can go about to observe the fine things that have been poured into the city from every side as they challenge one another like contestants in the theater striving to excel in beauty. On the one side you will see the abundance and fineness of holy things, even more abundant than they are fine, and even better than they are abundant. On another side you will see the walls and towers and the defense circuit of the city, whose measure and strength no one can wonder enough at, and on yet another the brilliance of the city's houses and the overwhelming pride in public show. On still another you will see the massiveness of the public buildings and their extent, evidences of royal indulgence and the luxury of power. You will see the size and beauty of these and you will hear much recounted to you about them. For this city is bejewelled in the eyes of those who see it beyond any other, and in those who remember it, even beyond reality, so that how could you pass through it without marvelling at many things, you who used to clap and dance with pleasure and seemed to see it almost as if you were one with those who longed for it.

But why do I speak of this, when you are in the presence of even more. You are where everything is holy, and every godly thing has been stored up as if this city had become a sort of treasury for God, curating for him every holy bone from the martyrs, every relic of priests and holy superiors, of all who have served God. These you could not find time enough for walking about with eagerness and desire, embracing them and gathering in their grace, for their beauty surrounds you from every side in every way. You revel in the many beauties of the land of your birth Its guardianship of all the products from land and sea, and the way in which all the best gathers her from every side and there is no good thing that the inhabited world produces that is not present here in abundance, all of this the very facts are witnesses to. Faster than you can think of them all the gifts from land and all those from the sea are gathered for you, some of them from right at hand, some from distant lands, whatever is needed and useful for mankind and whatever is desired for the amusement and pleasure of kings. This too is good indeed, the best of all goods. How could it not be?

The thing which is finer than all else, by far, is the goodwill and love of both nobles and populace, and simply, of all people. Some of them captured by the mere rumor of your excellence, others held by the nets of your speech that you, yourself have cast about them, binding them with steel bonds. If anyone were not to be taken by your first or second effort, that would be a marvel, such is the power of persuasion that sits on your lips and sends out such an incantation, as you utter the language of rhetoric and reason.

But what then? Will you become one with the beauties there, and will you transfer yourself entirely to the great city, and utterly forget those in Peloponnesos, of every sort and age? Or will you not rather concede this much to yourself and not approve of showing such scorn for us. Whether one puts forward the good things from the sea and its abundance, our sea will not surpass that in quality, or the abundance of game, and the delight it offers to kingly eyes, along with the training in military discipline, I do not know whether any other place will surpass Peloponnesos. Surely you will have proud thoughts of this region in its own right, which offers us much nurture and such a populace of followers, which grants us so much freedom to wander up and down, wherever we might wish in the plains, the hills and the mountains. As for men, if you marvel at the numbers, we surpass them, and if you care more about excellence, I do not know who takes precedence. There are, however, aspects of excellence in which we may take great pride. For perhaps we are surpassed in wisdom, but yet we will not easily yield to others even in that realm, for we have one who is sufficient against all the rest. For bravery, I should be surprised if you did not yourself judge that it is superior among the Peloponnesians, while as for intelligence and good sense, even if they do not surpass, nor are they surpassed. When the Peloponnesian are adorned with these, along with all the abundance of Peloponnesos, how could anyone look down on them or pass them by?

In good fortune, therefore, reverencing both your homeland and all those there, having made obeisance to the holy objects and also to those to whom this is owed, and from them having received the very same consideration, may you, with God, dispose of the affairs for which you went there and may you return in good health to us who long for you more than we might for any father, regarding your stepping again on this land as a day of good fortune. Or may you let us learn of even better things concerning you, oh best of rulers, who bring much content to your subjects when present but thus also griefs because of your absence from us.
* * * * * *
Θεοδόρῳ⟩ Τῷ Δεσπότῃ τῷ Πορφυρογεννήτῳ.

  Ἄλλ’ ἡμᾶς μὲν ὥσπερ τις ἄωρος ὀρφανία καταλαβοῦσα πείθει πενθεῖν, (3)
τὴν καταλύσασαν ἡμᾶς οὕτως ὀρφανίαν ὀδυρομένους, ὡς οὐδὲ τὰ χρηστότερα
ἀπελπίζοντας· σὲ δ’ ἡ πατρὶς χρόνῳ μὲν καὶ μόλις, ἄσμενος δ’ οὖν καὶ μετὰ (5)
μείζονος ἀπέλαβε σχήματος. τὸ τιμαλφέστατον αὐτῇ ᾗ χρῆμα ὄνομα. καὶ
πανηγύρεως μὲν εἶδεν ἡμέραν τὰ σὰ εἰσιτήρια· μετὰ λαμπρᾶς δὲ πομπῆς
ὑπεδέξατο τὸν δεσπότην, ἣν διέθηκέ σοι μὲν ὁ πᾶσι πάντων κρατῶν, ὁ βασι-
λεὺς καὶ φίλος καὶ ἀδελφός.

    Συνεπληροῦ δὲ πᾶσα τάξις ἀνθρώπων καὶ ἡλικία προχυθέντων τῆς πό- (10)
λεως καὶ βοῆς πάντα καὶ κρότου πληρούντων καὶ πᾶσιν, οἷς ἔνεστι, τὴν
τῆς ψυχῆς ἡδονὴν καὶ τὸ γάνος δηλούντων. οὐ χεῖρον δὲ ἴσως εἰπεῖν ὡς μετὰ
τῆς ἴσης καὶ σὺ τὴν πατρίδα τεθέασαι εὐφροσύνης, ἣν ἐπόθεις μὲν πάλαι,
εἶδες δὲ νυνὶ πρώτως. τὸν γὰρ πρὶν χρόνον οὐδ’ ἐν λόγῳ θετέον, οὕτως
ἐν πάνυ ἁπαλῇ ἡλικίᾳ τῆς ἐνεγκαμένης ἀπέραντος. καὶ νῦν ἔξεστί σοι περιϊόντι (15)
τὰ πανταχόθεν αὐτὴν περικεχυμένα κάλλη θεᾶσθαι ὥσπερ ἐν ἀγῶνί τε καὶ
θεάτρῳ ἀλλήλοις ἁμιλλώμενα καὶ τοῦ κάλλους ἐρίζοντα. ἔνθεν μὲν γὰρ
ἱερῶν ὄψει πλήθη καὶ κάλλη. οὕτω μὲν πλείω ἢ καλλίω, οὕτω δὲ βελτίω
ἢ πλείω. ἐκεῖθεν δὲ τείχη καὶ πύργους καὶ περίβολον πόλεως, ὧν οὔτε μέτρον
οὔτ’ ἀρετὴν οὐδ’ ἀξίως ἔνι θαυμάσαι, ἑτέρωθεν δημοσίων οἰκοδομημάτων (20)
λαμπρότητα καὶ τὴν περὶ τὰ θέατρα περιττὴν φιλοτιμίαν, ἄλλοθεν ὄγκον
ἀρχείων καὶ περιφάνειαν, βασιλικῆς ἁβρόσεως δείγματα καὶ τρυφῆς ἐξουσίας.
ὧν κάλλη τε καὶ μεγέθη τὰ μὲν ὄψει, περὶ δὲ τῶν πολλὰ καλὰ διηγουμένων
ἀκούσῃ. μόνη γὰρ ἥδε ἡ πόλις κοσμεῖται τοῖς μὲν ὁρωμένοις ὑπὲρ πάντα
τὰ ἄλλα, τοῖς δὲ μνημονευομένοις τῶν ὄντων βελτίοσιν, ἃ πῶς ἂν μὴ πολλὰ (25)
θαυμάσας παρέλθοις, ὅς γε καὶ διηγουμένων ἀκούων ἐκρότεις καὶ σκιρτῶν
ὑφ’ ἡδονῆς ἐδόκεις ὁρᾶν καὶ μόνον οὐ συνεῖναι τοῖς ποθουμένοις.

    Καίτοι τί ταῦτά φημι τὰ μείζω παρείς; ἐνταῦθα πᾶν μὲν ἀπόκειται
ἱερόν, πᾶν δὲ τεθησαύρισται θεῖον ὥσπερ τινὸς Θεοῦ ταμείου γενομένης
τῆς πόλεως καὶ συντηρούσας αὐτῷ πᾶν μὲν μαρτύρων ὀστοῦν ἱερόν, πᾶν (30)
δὲ λείψανον ἱερέων, ἀρχιερέων ὁσίων, παντὸς τεθεραπευκότος Θεόν. ταῦτ’ οὐκ
ἂν φθάνοις σπουδῇ τε καὶ πόθῳ περιϊὼν καὶ κατασπαζόμενος καὶ τὴν ἐκεῖθεν @1
(426.) κομιζόμενος χάριν. οὕτω σε πανταχόθεν παντοδαπὰ περιΐσταται κάλλη· καὶ
τρυφᾷς ἄρα πολλοῖς τοῖς τῆς πατρίδος καλοῖς. τὴν γὰρ ἐκ γῆς καὶ θαλάτ-
της δορυφορίαν, καὶ ὡς ἐνταῦθα τὰ πανταχόθεν ἄκρα συντρέχει, καὶ ὧν ἡ
οἰκουμένη φέρει καλῶν οὐδέν, ὃ μὴ καὶ ταύτῃ πρόσεστι δαψιλῶς, αὐτά σοι
μαρτυρήσει τὰ πράγματα. τάχιον γοῦν ἢ ἐνθυμηθῆναι τὰ μὲν ἐκ γῆς σοι, (5)
τὰ δ’ ἐκ θαλάττης παντοδαπὰ κομίζεται δῶρα, τὰ μὲν αὐτόθεν, τὰ δ’ ἐξ
ὑπερορίας, ὅσα τε πρὸς ἀνάγκην καὶ χρείαν ἀνθρώποις, ὅσα τε πρὸς διαγωγὴν
καὶ τρυφὴν βασιλεῦσι. καίτοι καλὰ μὲν καὶ ταῦτα καὶ καλῶν κάλλιστα.
πῶς γὰρ οὔ;

    Ἐκεῖνό γε μὴν πάντων πολλῷ κάλλιον ἡ τῶν ἀρίστων τε καὶ πολλῶν (10)
καὶ πάντων ἁπλῶς εὔνοιά τε καὶ φιλία· τῶν μὲν καὶ μόνῃ τῇ περὶ σοῦ φήμῃ
τῆς σῆς ἁλόντων ἀρετῆς· οὓς δὲ καὶ ταῖς τῆς φωνῆς αὐτὸς ἄρκυσι νυνὶ περι-
σχὼν καὶ πεδήσας ἀδαμαντίναις ἀνάγκαις. εἰ μή τίς σου γὰρ ἁλῷ μετὰ πρώτην
ἔντευξιν ἢ δευτέραν, θαῦμα ἂν εἴη. τοιαύτη σου τοῖς χείλεσιν ἐπικάθηται
πείθω καὶ οὕτως ἐπαγωγὴν φθέγγῃ, καὶ τὴν ἀπὸ ῥητορικῆς καὶ λόγων (15)
<γλῶσσαν> φωνεῖς.

    Τί οὖν; ὅλος τῶν ἐνταῦθα γενήσῃ καλῶν, καὶ πρὸς τὴν μεγάλην μετα-
θήσεις σαυτὸν ἅπαντα πόλιν, Πελοποννήσου δὲ καὶ τῶν τῇδε ὁποιωνοῦν
ὄντων καὶ ἡλίκων τέλεον ἐπιλήσῃ; καὶ μὴν οὐδ’ αὐτὸς σαυτῷ τοῦτο συγχωρή-
σεις, οὐδ’ ἐπαινέσεις τὸ τοσοῦτον ἡμᾶς περιφρονῆσαι; εἴτε γὰρ τὰ θαλάττης (20)
προβαλῇ καλὰ καὶ τὴν αὐτῆς ἀφθονίαν, —τῇ γε ἀρετῇ πως ἡ παρ’ ἡμῖν
οὐ διοίσει—εἴτε κυνηγεσίων ἀφθονίαν ἅμα καὶ τέρψιν ὅσην βασιλικοῖς
ὀφθαλμοῖς καὶ τακτικῶν γυμνασίαν παρεχομένων, οὐκ οἶδ’, εἴ τις ἑτέρα
Πελοποννήσου κρατήσει. τάχα δ’ ἂν ἐφ’ ἑαυτῇ καὶ μέγα φρονήσεις τοῦτο
τὸ μέρος, πολλὴν μὲν ἡμῖν χορηγοῦσαν τὴν θεραπείαν καὶ πλῆθος τῶν ἑπο- (25)
μένων, πολλὴν δὲ τὴν ἄδειαν ἄνω τε καὶ κάτω περιϊοῦσι, καὶ οὗ τῶν πεδίων
τε καὶ γηλόφων καὶ ὀρῶν εἴη βουλομένοις. καὶ μὴν καὶ ἀνθρώπων, εἰ μὲν
πλῆθος θαυμάζεις, νικῶμεν ἡμεῖς. εἰ δ’ ἀρετὴν περὶ πλείονος ἄγεις, οὐκ οἶδα
μέν, ὧν τὰ πρεσβεῖα. ἔστι δέ τι τῆς ἀρετῆς, ᾧ καὶ ἡμῖν ἔξεστι μέγα φρονῆσαι.
σοφίας μὲν γὰρ ἴσως νικώμεθα. καίτοι οὐδὲ τούτου τοῦ μέρους ῥᾳδίως ἑτέροις (30)
παραχωρήσομεν· ἔχομεν γάρ, ὃς ἀντὶ πάντων ἀρκεῖ. ἀνδρείας δὲ θαυμάσαιμ’
ἄν, εἰ μὴ καὶ αὐτὸς Πελοποννησίοις κρινεῖς περιεῖναι. τῆς γε μὴν φρονήσεώς
τε καὶ γνώσεως, εἰ μὴ νικῶσιν, οὐδὲ νικῶνται. καίτοι ὅτε τούτοις, ἃ μόνα
κοσμεῖν πέφυκεν ἄνθρωπον, μετὰ τοσαύτης οἱ τῇδε τῆς περιουσίας κοσμοῦνται,
πῶς ἄν τις αὐτοὺς δικαίως περιφρονήσει καὶ ῥᾳδίως παρόψεται; (35)

    Ἀγαθῇ τοίνυν τύχῃ πατρίδα καὶ τοὺς ἐνταῦθα κατιδὼν ἅπαντας, καὶ
προσκυνήσας μὲν ἱερά, προσκυνήσας δ’ οἷς τοῦτο ὀφείλεται, ὑφ’ ὧν δὲ τοῦτ’
αὐτὸ δεδεγμένος, εὖ μὲν σὺν Θεῷ διαθείης τὰ ἐφ’ οἷς ἧκες. εὖ δ’ ἔχων πρὸς
ἡμᾶς ἐπανήκοις, τίνος οὐ μᾶλλον σὲ ποθοῦντας πατρὸς καὶ ἡμέραν εὐδαι-
μονίας τὴν γῆν ἐκδεχομένους ἐπάνοδον. ἢ δοίης μαθεῖν περὶ σοῦ τὰ βελτίω, (40)
ἀνδρῶν τε καὶ δεσποτῶν ἄριστε καὶ θειότατε. καὶ πολλὰ μὲν εὐφράνας τοὺς
ὑπηκόους παρών, πολλὰ δὲ λυπήσας ἀποδημήσας.
* * * * * *
The English translation is by Pierre A. MacKay. The Greek text was downloaded from:
Ludwig Mohler, Kardinal Bessarion als Theologe, Humanist und Staatsman. Vol. III, (Neudruck der Ausgabe Paederborn 1942) Scientia Verlag Aalen Ferdinand Schöning. Paderborn 1967. pp. 425—427 (Venice Cod. Marc. gr. 533, fol. 50—51) available here.http://www.kenef.phil.uoi.gr/pdf/34852/34852.pdf

13 May 2011

Bare Planks and Green Silk

A short account by Bettina Schinas of a visit to Petrobey Mavromichalis, with appreciation to Brigitte Eckert for her translation.
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 12 November 1834, morning .

As D. Ipsilanti was called only ‘Prince’ in Greece, naturally meaning him and no other person,so the old Mavromichalis, well-known even abroad, is named just by the Turkish ‘prince’ = Bey. He first came to us, missed us, S. visited him and found him in bed suffering podagra (gout) but promising a visit as soon as he would be able to walk. So I went Sunday with S. to see him as I had wished very much. 
After we knocked with an iron knocker a woman dressed in Greek style opened the door -- a red fez with braids, an overskirt open in front  and closely fitting at the back, some folds at the sides, short half-open hanging sleeves, a skirt and jacket with sleeves which let the white shirtsleeves hang out in folds. The jacket just reaching under the breast and very close at the sides so the shirt which is closed to the throat is all visible in front. 

We stepped into a courtyard, not big, little chambers made of irregular rough planks attached to the sides, walked on planks deeper into the court under a simple porch straight, then left, to get into the room which lies to the rear of the building. Walls, ceiling, floor covered by planks, the single wall with windows and another one plainly whitewashed, the door in the right corner, left of it cupboards in the wooden wall, upon them, close to the ceiling, some icons put up.  At the right side wall a few wooden chairs, a small door if I am not wrong, a big suitcase with a Persian carpet and some pillows as a couch, at the end a small lopsided window, maybe a cubit high. In the wall facing the entrance a few little windows, over them a long board along the wall, as at the other walls, carrying books etc., under it a long Turkish divan made from wooden stands, planks and a mattress on them, topped by Persian carpets and cotton clothes reaching to the floor, along the wall rich cushions covered by Turkish clothes, smooth, with velvety arabesque patterns. 

At the 4th wall next to the divan the bed was standing, at foot sitting the Eparch (provincial governor), a priest and another man eating lunch   at rough wooden table . The bed was extremely clean, the Bey completely dressed, wearing  a beautiful green silk fur[-lined robe] and a red fez was sitting in it with a heavy silk cover up to his knees. A beautiful old face but still looking young -- strong, fresh without wrinkles. Beautiful lively eyes with an expression of infinite kindness and goodwill, so mild and so good. You can see the pictures of most of the people I am writing about in Berlin as copper engravings, do so to be able to share my experiences better than only from my descriptions.

The venerable man was very surprised to see me coming in. S. told him that I had wished so much to meet him so I would pay a visit to his sickroom. He pressed my hands very warmly and kindly.  I sat down close to his bed, observing while he spoke to keep his features in my mind. He too watched me with an expression of joy, S. had to translate for us. The Bey made me report how I liked Greece and how I decided to live so far away from home, which relatives I left back home etc. Finally he asked looking very intently if I ever heard his name in my country, if this old man is known there? 

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Previous letters from Bettina Schinas:

07 May 2011

The Loot of Herodes Atticus

In two previous entries I have lamented the fact that the sculptures found by the archaeologists Spyropouloi in the Eva-Loukou villa of Herodes Atticus have been left to languish in the humid apotheke of the Astros museum.  I have just come across the dissertation of Georg Spyropoulos from which I learn that the best sculpture was found in time for this dissertation to be published in 2000.  The dissertation covers three pieces of sculpture and an accompanying mosaic: this lovely dancer whom I have mentioned before ("A Missing Acropolis Marble"), a young man, and two representations of Achilles and Penthesilea.  

I cannot absolutely say that the young man and Achilles are concealed in the apotheke -- as is the Marathon Stone -- it was too badly lit and we were too crowded together for too short a time to see even a quarter of the archaeological loot stashed in there, but the dancer is.  The Astros museum has been closed for years, ostensibly because of earthquake damage, but there is no assurance any of these pieces would be exhibited there if it were open.  These lovely sculptures are part of the Greek heritage, their excavation was paid for by Greek taxes, and yet Greeks -- unless they know the right people or have the right prestige -- are denied the privilege we thirty-five Americans had ever so briefly. (We might have had twenty, instead of ten, minutes, but disgruntled museum employees insisted on leaving precisely at 5 PM.)

Herodes Atticus looted the dancer from the Acropolis: why does the Acropolis Museum not reclaim her?  Why excavate only to hoard? Should archaeology be about providing pretty pictures for archaeologists' books?

The images here are taken from Georg Spyropoulos' dissertation, Drei Meisterwerke der Griechischen Plastik aus der Villa des Herodes Atticus zu Eva-Loukou.


01 May 2011

On Vacation: Ag. Paraskevi's Carvings

From Ag. Paraskevi, a 13th-century Latin Dominican priory church used since independence as the cathedral of Halkis, an assortment of medieval stone-carving on bosses and finials (one a Green Man). You can see most of the bosses from the front of the church, but the finials are all behind the iconostasis, carefully concealed from view.  To judge from the photographs, the quality of the carving is extremely fine. A later post will show other medieval treasures from Ag. Paraskevi. Pierre MacKay and restoration architect Nikos Delinikolas have written extensively about the church and the dating cannot be questioned, although there are those in Halkis who persist in calling it a Byzantine basilica, and others who say the origin is still under discussion.  These are not my photographs because the church caretaker and then the bishop's office would not permit me to photograph the carvings behind the iconostasis: I have collected them from the interwebs.