Vitsentzos Kornaros

Vitsentzos Kornaros - Erotokritos

Erotokritos & Aretousa by Theophilos Hadjimichail (1930)Vitsentzos Kornaros or Vincenzo Cornaro is considered the leading poet of the Cretan Renaissance and one of the most significant and influential figures in the entire course of Greek poetry.

Son of a Venetian - Cretan aristocrat, he was born in Sitia on March 29, 1553 and lived there until 1590.

He then moved to Candia (present Heraklion), where his marriage to Marietta Zeno took place.

Together they had two daughters named Helen and Katerina. In 1591 Kornaros became an administrator, and during the outbreak of plague from 1591 to 1593 he worked as a sanitary supervisor.

He showed interest in literature and was a member of a literary group called Academy of Strange, which was founded by his brother and fellow writer Andreas Kornaros.

He died in Candia, in 1613 (or 1614) and was buried at the church of San Francesco. The cause of his death remains unknown.

Kornaros exerted great influence with his language and his poetic art on all Modern Greek literature.

The first edition of his work circulated in Venice in 1713.

The romantic epic poem Erotokritos constitutes a classic example of Greek renaissance literature and consists of 10,012 fifteen-syllable rhymed verses.

Its themes are love, honor, friendship and courage. It is written in characteristic Cretan language and rhyme, similar to traditional mandinades (traditional Cretan poems).

The story takes place in Athens where King Herakles lives with his wife Artemis and their beautiful daughter Aretousa, with whom the handsome and brave young man Erotokritos, son of the king's advisor, falls in love.

After many difficulties and trials, the couple is married amidst celebrations and magnificent contests.

Of all the gracious things upon this earth
It is fair words that have the greatest worth,
And he who uses them with charm and guile
Can cozen human eyes to weep or smile.

V. Kornaros, Erotokritos I 887-90 (Stephanides)

Erotokritos has been characterized a masterpiece of the Greek language which unites the magic of myth and a deep understanding of everyday life.

It expresses the "threefold ideal which is bravery, beauty and wisdom." A work rooted deeply in authentic Greek traditions, humanity, true feeling and pure love for life and freedom.

It was a great source of inspiration for Dionisios Solomos and influenced Greek poets as diverse as Kostis Palamas, Kristallis and Seferis.

Erotokritos still remains a popular classic work, largely due to the music which accompanies it.