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References to Constantinople Prophecies in 19th & 20th Century Greek Poetry

Greek Poets of the 19th and 20th Century: ...Later in the nineteenth century the myth of the sleeping emperor became a theme for contemporary Greek poets. George Bizyinos (1849-96) wrote a poem entitled 'The Last Palaiologos' which concludes with the tale of the emperor being woken by the angel and, repossessed of his sword, chasing the Turks all the way to Red Apple Tree. George Zalokostas (1805-58), in his poem 'The Sword and the Crown' first published in 1854, foretells the day when the crown of Constantine, taken away for safe keeping by the Lord of Heaven, will be restored to rest upon the head of a fair-haired emperor. The myth was given new meaning when, for reasons best known to himself, the Danish King of the Hellenes George I (1863-1913), had his son and heir baptised as Constantine. Readers of Agathangelos and Stephanitzes were enraptured. The monks of Mount Athos were at their most prophetic. Clearly the heir to the Greek throne was in the direct line of succession from the first and the last Emperors of Byzantium, Constantine I the Great and Constantine XI Palaiologos. We have seen how the Greeks in Constantinople presented the young Constantine with what they alleged was the sword of the last Christian ruler of their city. When he came to the throne of Greece in 1913 there were many of his subjects who hailed him as Constantine XII. His leadership in the Balkan Wars of 191213 and the eviction of the Turks from Thessaloniki fortified the fantasy that the Red Apple Tree would be his next stop. It was unfortunate that he fell foul of his Prime Minister Eleutherios Venizelos and had to abdicate before accomplishing what many believed to be his sacred mission." The bubble of the Great Idea was finally pricked by the catastrophic failure of the Greek invasion of Asia Minor in 1922. In the same year Constantine of the Hellenes was forced to abdicate for a second time. The illusion of the sleeping emperor was laid to rest. But the myth itself lives on, as a harmless legend or a fairy tale. Perhaps its most poetic evocation in modern Greek literature is that by Kostis Palamas (18591943) in his long poem entitled 'The King's Flute' first published in 1910: King, I shall arise from my enmarbled sleep, And from my mystic tomb I shall come forth To open wide the bricked-up Golden Gate; And, victor over the Caliphs and the Tsars, Hunting them beyond Red Apple Tree, I shall seek rest upon my ancient bounds. The latest version of the legend comes in a popular song of the 1970s, called simply 'The Marble Emperor': I sent two birds to the Red Apple tree, of which the legends speak

One was killed, the other was hurt, and they never came back to me. Of the marble emperor there is no word, no talk. But grandmothers sing about him to the children like a fairy tale. I sent two birds, two house martins, to the Red Apple Tree. But there they stayed and became a dream...

Edward Gibbon: ...By the vulgar of every rank it was asserted and believed that an equestrian statue in the square of Taurus was secretly inscribed with a prophecy, how the Russians, in the last days, should become masters of Constantinople (The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, p. 517).