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Akathistos

Dimitri Conomos


Subject Religion

Key-Topics liturgy, music

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405185394.2011.x


Extract

The most famous of all surviving Byzantine kontakia . This anonymous work, which celebrates the annunciation of the Virgin and the nativity of Christ, consists of two prooemia (introductory hymns) and 24 strophes bound by an alphabetic acrostic. The Akathistos (Gk. “not seated”) was, and still is, performed while the congregation stands. The even-numbered stanzas carry an alleluia refrain, whereas the odd-numbered oikoi include a set of Salutations to the Virgin: 12 lines in metrically matching pairs, each line beginning with “Hail!” Each oikos ends with the refrain “Hail, Bride Unwedded!” Metrically, this poem is unique, as its central part is formed of alternating strophes of two different lengths. The texts of the first 12 oikoi elaborate on the incarnation and the infancy of Christ, whereas the last 12 alternate praise of God with praises to the Virgin. The whole coalesces to create a subtly interwoven tapestry of images that is one of the high points of Byzantine poetry. Syriac elements are evident in the deliberate use of rhyme found in the pairs of lines of equal length of the longer strophes. This and the kontakion On Judas , attributed to Romanos the Melodist, are the only examples in the whole of Greek poetry of the use of rhyme before the conquest of Greek lands by the Franks during the Fourth Crusade (1204–61). Like most Byzantine kontakia, the Akathistos ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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