Original Research

‘Die dood van Digenis’ - mistifikasie van ’n Bisantynse held

B. Hendrickx
Literator | Vol 14, No 1 | a693 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v14i1.693 | © 1993 B. Hendrickx | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 May 1993 | Published: 03 May 1993

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B. Hendrickx, Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit, South Africa

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Abstract

The Byzantine akritic poem, "The Death of Digenis", which manifests all the characteristics of the Byzantine Neo-Hellenic tragoudi, is a good exemplum of an epic song, where mystification (in its anthropological sense) is used to idealize the hero. Historically the akritic songs (9th - 13th cent. A.D.) refer to the ongoing war on Byzantium’s frontiers between the Christian defenders of the empire and the Moslem invaders. The poem's structure, its historical-epic elements and especially its symbolism are examined in this article. It thus becomes clear that the unknown poet juxtaposes present, past and future in such a way that Digenis’s heroic (but human) exploits of the past are integrated in a supernatural climax, where the hero in his struggle loses to Charon (Death - Archangel Michael). Consequently Digenis, whose name means ‘bom twice', complies on the one hand with the tragic destiny of an epic death, and on the other hand passes through a kind of initiation ritual into the Christian host of the heroes of Heaven.

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