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Author(s) : Banev Guentcho
Translation : Daskalaki Photini

For citation: Banev Guentcho, "Ptochoprodromos",
Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Constantinople
URL: <http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=12585>

Πτωχοπρόδρομος (5/7/2009 v.1) Ptochoprodromos (3/7/2012 v.1) 



Ptochoprodromos complains about the abbot's luxurious banquets, as opposed to the poor food provided to simple monks like himself. From poem IV (poem III in the Hesseling-Pernot edition):

Τετράδα καὶ παρασκευὴν ξηροφαγοῦσιν ὅλως·
ἰχθὺν γὰρ οὐκ ἐσθίουσιν, ἄναξ, ποσῶς ἐv τούτοις,
εἰμὴ ψωμίτσιν, ἀστακοὺς καὶ ἀληθινὰ παγούρια, [275]
καὶ καραβίδας εκζεστάς, τηγάνου καριδίτσας
καὶ λαχανίτσιν καὶ φακὴν μετὰ ὀστρειδομυδίτσια,
καὶ μετὰ . . . . δέσποτα, καὶ κτένια καὶ σωλῆνας,
καὶ φαβατίτσιν ἀλεστὸν καὶ ὀρύζιν μὲ τὸ μέλιν,
φασόλια ἐξοφθάλμιστα, ἐλαίτσας καὶ χαβιάριν, [280]
καὶ πωρινὰ αὐγοτάραχα διὰ τὴν ἀνορεξίαν,
μηλίτσια τε καὶ φοίνικας, ἰσχάδας, καρυδίτσια,
καὶ σταφιδίτσας χιώτικας, καὶ ἀπὸ τὸ διὰ κίτρου.
. . . ., νὰ χωνεύσουσιν ἐκ τῆς ξηροφαγίας,
κρασὶν γλυκὺν γανίτικον, καὶ κρητικὸν καὶ σάμιον, [285]
ἵνα χυμοὺς ἐκβάλωσιν ἐκ τῆς γλυκοποσίας,
ἡμᾶς δὲ προτιθέασι κυάμους βεβρεγμένους,
Ἡμεῖς δὲ νῦν ἐσθίομεν καθόλου τὸ ἁγιοζούμιν,
καὶ σκόπει τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ τὴν ποικιλίαν·
κακκάβιν ἔνι δίωτον, ὡσεὶ μετρῶν τεσσάρων,
καὶ ἕως ἄνω οἱ μάγειροι γεμίζουσί το ὕδωρ,
καὶ πῦρ ἐξάπτουσι πολὺ κατὰ τοῦ κακκαβίου,
καὶ βάλλουσι κρομμύδια κἂν εἴκοσι κολέντας, [295]
καὶ τότε βλέπε, δέσποτα, καλὴν φιλοτιμίαν·
εἰς κλῆσιν γὰρ βαπτίζονται τριάδος τῆς ἁγίας,
στάζει γὰρ τρεῖς τὸ ἔλαιον ὁ μάγειρος ἀπέσω,
καὶ βάλλει καὶ θρνμβόξυλα τινὰ πρὸς μυρωδίαν
καὶ τὸν ζωμὸν ἐκχέει τον ἐπάνω τῶν ψωμίων, [300]
καὶ δίδουν μας καὶ τρώγομεν καὶ λέγεται ἁγιοζούμιν.

Eideneier, Hans, Ptochoprodromos: Einführung, kritische Ausgabe, deutsche Übersetzung, Glossar (Köln: Romiosini 1991).

On Wednesdays and Fridays they keep a strict fast: they don't even eat any fish on those days, my lord, but only a bit of bread, and lobsters and nice crabs and stewed crayfish, pan-fried prawns and a few greens and lentils with their oysters and mussels, and clams and razor-shells, your worship, along with the rest: nice broad beans, rice with honey, sprouted black-eyed peas, olives and caviar, and botargo in season to keep them from starvation, sweet little apples and dates, dried figs and green walnuts, and Chios raisins, and some lemon conserve. Of course, they complete their fast-day meal with sweet Ganitic wine, and Cretan, and Samian, to throw off the evil humours with a drink of sweet wine. Meanwhile they put before us well-soaked dry beans, and quench our thirst with cumin-water, obedient to the Rule and the precepts of the Fathers. What we eat is nothing but 'holy soup'; notice the clever name. The cooks take a two-handled cauldron, about four gallons, and fill it up with water, and light a good fire underneath, and toss in about twenry onions ... The chef gives it three splashes of oil and tosses in some twigs of savory for flavouring, and pours this soup over our pieces of bread, and gives it to us to eat, and it's called 'holy soup'.

Transl. by A. Dalby, Tastes of Byzantium (New York 2003), p. 94.]

An evaluation of the ptochoprodromic poems in the context of Byzantine vernacular literature and its place in the Komnenian court

What conclusions can be drawn? Byzantinists have been all too ready to treat our poems as "non-sens in disenables," simply because they arc in “mixed-up Greek.” They have also been reluctant to accept that vernacular texts, from the twelfth century on, can and should be created with the same degree of seriousness as texts in the style. Textual emendations and conflation of different manuscripts have been arbitrary. Yet, if Theodore Prodromos was the author of our four poems, as a mounting body of evidence suggests, the twelfth century provides the literary, cultural, and linguistic starting point for "modern" Greek, at the same time as ''ancient”' texts were rediscovered, edited, and performed. The twelfth century, as Michael Hendy, Alan Harvey, and Magdalino have shown from socioeconomic and cultural perspectives, was not one of decline, rather one of bewildering yet productive social diversification. Prodromos in the four vernacular poems spells out a timely if complex message for imperial rulers: they must pay serious attention to games and play in low-style language or else they will fall, as did indeed Constantinople to the Latins in 1204. Such is the wealth and specificity of detail afforded by the four poems here that we may be certain that they were not composed after that date, although they may have been revised by later scribes.

Alexiou M. “Ploys of Performance: Games and Play in the Ptochoprodromic Poems”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 53 (1999), p. 109.


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