Poetry was my raw material
When I began to write my novel about the fall of the Byzantine Empire, I could not imagine the adventure on which I was embarking.
On the one hand, there was the position I had to take, as author, toward a historical event that altered the world stage and shaped a new order in the balance of power throughout the world; on the other, there was the psychic price to pay, in reviving the wrenching experience of the last days of the siege of Constantinople and its fall.
The novel describes, moment by moment, the last fifty-seven days
of the dying Byzantine Empire and at the same time recounts the
unhappy course of the Empire’s decline and of its abandonment by
It also outlines the painful experience of the Greek people after the
fall, which led to the flowering of Greek learning in the West.
History needs poetry in order to survive. I made use of poetic language and symbols, in order to enrich the epic account with insights from contemporary psychology.Poetry was my raw material.
What I hoped to do was to find that which almost always remains
outside of history: the passion, the miracle, the oath of the soul, the
shudder, the heroic grandeur of that tragic besieged people, whose
sacrifice, the honorable death which they elected, became symbols in the conscience of humanity.
All those things I attempted to portray through the personal
experience of my hero, Porphyrios, the young warrior who was devoted to the Emperor and who bore on his brow the ochre circle that glowed and bled like a prophecy.
I read about the historical events in order to forget them. I needed to forget them so that those events could be integrated with the mythical elements and become a story. My myth, with all the magic elements that it contains, is such that it links to the mystical mentality of the time in which the novel is set, when omens and miracle and prophecy played an important role.
I needed to utilize the magic, mythical element for my hero, because the historical personages that enter into the realms of legend are greater than life, and I had to match my mythical characters, the imaginary ones that I invented, to those dimensions so that they could stand beside the real, historical, characters.
Some readers have asked me whether this novel, as a historical
document, is instructive. I do not believe that history is instructive; nor are the errors of history. Only conscience is instructive, the conscience that leads to the catharsis of self-knowledge.
Many have also asked me why there is such interest today in
historical fiction. I believe it is for the same reason that causes the
author to write it. There is general need of a return to historical roots, a need for historical self-knowledge. At the threshold of the new millenium, the human spirit yearns for its own historical truth.
The insecurity created by the globalization of humanity gives rise to the need for historical identity, for historical truth, and the major events of human history, such as the fall of the Byzantine Empire, represent a historical past for every ecumenical human being.
The four years that I spent in writing this novel and my research
into the prophecies that came to pass, the signs, the miracles, taught
me that our life is a confirmation of the Unexplainable. To us, to our human perception, only the confirmation is apparent, not the
Unexplainable itself. That remains silent and unshakable, like
prophecies, or miracles.
Those prophecies that spoke, a thousand years earlier, about the fall of The City, about the last full moon that would disappear: each and every one of them came to pass. Yet the source of those prophecies was never revealed to us.
Deus negavit said the Venetian soldier, begging for a little water
shortly after the fall of The City.
“God did not will it.”
That was the meaning of all the ancient prophecies. That was the meaning of all the unexplainable signs, such as the mysterious light that came down each night from the sky and covered The City, that unexplainable light, which dispersed and disappeared on the last night, such as the darkness that covered The City, which many said was like the darkness at the hour of the Crucifixion of Christ, and so many other signs.
I believe that the fall of the Byzantine Empire, which brought to an
end a thousand years of civilization and splendor, was one of the most significant historical event of the millenium that has ended. Because it altered the world stage. Because it became a testimony of conscience for mankind, in all ages.
The renowned Byzantinist, Sir Steven Runciman writes: “In this
story the Greek people is the tragic hero…
For the Greeks the fall of The City was even more momentous. For
them it was indeed the final ending of a chapter. The splendid
civilization of Byzantium had already played its part in civilizing the world, and it was now dying with the dying city. But it was not yet dead. The dwindling population of Constantinople on the eve of its fall contained many of the finest intellects of the time, belonging to men reared in a high cultured tradition that stretched back to ancient Greece and Rome.”
The 700 pages novel is in 23th edition, by Patakis pablications