week 5: Apollonius of Tyre

week 5: Apollonius of Tyre

Number of replies: 18

I'd like to ask you to have a look at the Latin version of the story alongside the Old English one, if only to supply the part of the plot that hasn't been preserved in the latter.

What would you say are the aspects of the story stressed in the translation?

Can you see any points of contact in terms of thematic concerns, organization of the narrative etc. between Apollonius and the texts we have read so far? Is there a way they could be read as a similar type of a story, not to say genre?

In reply to First post

Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Liana Marie Ellegate -
Major themes I personally noted in the translation are honour, status, knowledge, truthfulness, and love. The pursuit of honour and status (especially regaining it after his shipwreck) are central to Apollonius’ actions. Knowledge plays a large part both in the solving of the riddle (when he returns to his home and consults the great philosophers’ works for help) and in winning the love of his bride-to-be. Truthfulness (of course, this can be connected to honour) can be found in Apollonius’ upstanding behaviour despite his being wronged by the impious king and in his dedication to repaying the fisherman who saved him after his shipwreck. Finally, of course, love is interlaced throughout the tale.

I would say this story and the texts we have previously read can be read as a similar type of story. There are connections in the themes, and the plots all involve a series of trials. A key difference I would note is that in the previous texts the trials were generally sought out, versus with Apollonius they seemed to be accidents - or to have been caused by the fates (if we connect this speculation to the prevalence of Greek mythological/philosophical references throughout the tale). That being said, overall this story had a distinctly different feel - though I would also attribute that to the other stories being in the sub-genre of Arthurian Romance while this story is not.
In reply to First post

Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Michaela Válková -
It seems to me that whilst the previous texts which we have read were primarily focused on physical power, this text extols knowledge as the source of power. In the previous stories, the main way for the heroes to prove their worthiness and honour was through battles and tournaments. In this story, knowledge, cunning, and wit are the decisive factors that determine the hero’s worth and that lead him to a good fortune. The theme of knowledge is introduced at the very beginning in which it is the riddle that must be solved; and Apollonius succeeds. The theme of knowledge reappears throughout the text, for example when Apollonius is charged with teaching the princess to play the musical instrument, thanks to which she falls in love with him.

The story is relatively fast paced as the previous stories with a lot of action going on but, in this story, we are taken to various journeys in different locations. Some of the elements or plot devices do remind us of the Greek tales, such as the long and dangerous journey on the sea or incest. The characters seem to me to be more black and white than the more complex characters in the King Arthur stories we have read so far. I suppose it could be said that Apollonius is a similar type of a story as it is very adventurous and some of the themes such as love, honour, and adventures do overlap.
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Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Ivana Turusová -
I agree with the ladies. The text stresses out the importance of truthfulness, purity and loyalty (to husband and wife but also to the debtor and the one who helped him), emotions and especially love (between loves, parents and children), being merciful to those who have been wronged, empathy with the poor, but also intellect.

I do see some kind of similarity, especially between Ywaine and Gawaine and Apollonius. As Liana pointed out, there are trials to overcome but in Ywaine and Perceval, it is the hero who seeks them and usually they focus in skills in arms, however in Apollonius in seems that the trial finds Apollonius, and dwells in intellect and mastering words. Emotions, especially love (either parental or amorous), is another connecting theme, though in Ywaine the motivations for marriage of Alundyne appear quite doubtful in terms of true love, Apollonius' wife count on her own inner emotions and wishes, and that is the reason why Apollonius' marriage seems more truthful to me. There is also the concept of failure connected with the loss of the loved one - but while Ywaine's misery finds its source in his own mistake (he forgot to go back to his wife) and makes him flee in the woods and lose mind, Apollonius is mistreated both by king Antiochus (who denied Apollonius the marriage with his daughter, even though he had the right) and Strangullio and Dionysius (who lied to him about his daughter's death for their own selfish reasons), thus leaving Apollonius to remain in grief and wishes to die. But these are probably the only similarities I can see.
In reply to Ivana Turusová

Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Helena Znojemská -
I'm glad you noted the familial aspect of the tale. I.e. not just love in and of itself, but love as the basis of a whole set of relationships. This seems NOTABLY missing from Arthurian romance, though not from other texts that are placed under the umbrella term of romance - like Havelok the Dane, for example.
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Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Danila Gudkov -
There are certain things that Apollonius and previous texts share. The protagonist is a nobleman who is uniquely suited to deal with the problems/tasks he encounters, with Ywain and Perceval being mighty knights and Apollonius being of a mighty wit and wealth. In the first part of their stories both he and Ywain gain love and rich wives only to lose them and are brought low by despair only to have it eventually undone by regaining their loss. Moreover, there are damsels who have their purity threatened by rather unpleasant men. Alternatively, there are ladies that protagonists lust after even when such love/lust is obviously dangerous for their life prospects.
Also, as per usual the narrative does not always make sense. Apollonius, who has a death warrant yet does nothing to conceal his identity, decides that the best way to hide is to publicly ask a city, that he just saved, not to rat him out. Their reaction to that is to build a statue in his honor. Why does Apollonius abandon his daughter for fourteen years and decides to travel to Egypt, instead of bringing her with him to his own city? The sheer amount of coincidences to move the story along is also something that all the texts we read share. The fate of Stranguillio, who has an unfortunate name, is a bit odd to me. He is killed along with his treacherous wife, who fully deserved her death, while the man who was about to murder Tharsia is spared for both naming the plotter and being decent to her. Yet Stranguillio did not know about his wife's plot nor did he approve it, though he did not punish her. Yet he also deserved death and not exile?
In reply to Danila Gudkov

Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Helena Znojemská -
A cumulative response to Liana's, Michaela's and Danila's observations:
Liana noted an underlying pattern common to this tale and the romances we have read so far: a series of trials. I would highlight the aspect of the fall into obscurity and regaining identity (present here in Apollonius' experience in Archistrates court; this is even more prominent in the Old English version, where Apollonius loses his very NAME at sea, much like Ywain does). The means and the emphasis, as Michaela observed, are different: intelligence, even cunning instead of prowess. That's why I also uploaded Floris and Blanchefleur for comparison, because it shows the same focus (though not the same emphasis on the liberal arts ;-). It also presents adventures fated not chosen, yes, Liana - though I would perhaps argue that Ywain merely responded - though in the requisite chivalric fashion - to situations that offered themselves in the second part of the tale). Danila rightly notes the "two climaxes" structure in Apollonius' first marriage and his family reunion at the end (cf. Ywain's marriage and regaining Alundyne's favour, Perceval's marriage and the reunion with his mother). Not the same, surely, because, as Michaela suggested, Apollonius doesn't change while Ywain definitely and Perceval possibly does. Yet the structuring is identical.
Danila's observation on the problematic credibility of a number of plot turns in the tale of Apollonius (which, in his opinion, it shares with our preceding texts) is spot on and agrees with the secondary sources we've read so far which identified "lack of realism" or "realistic motivation" as one of the core defining elements in romance.
In reply to First post

Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Jáchym Hájek -
Apollonius, to me, seemed the perfect knightly hero, much unlike Perceval - he was smart (not only in guessing the riddle, but also in making his strategy to get to Arcestrates and regain his wealth), kind, honourable and honest. He may have been lacking in the modesty department, however, as for example the part where he one-upped the king's daughter seemed rather surprising to me - it wasn't a very nice thing to do, but it worked out in the end. Overall, though, Apollonius seemed to me a rather likeable character, which was for me a nice change after Perceval.

I think the obvious similarity between Apollonius and the other text is the regaining of one's honour or status. It describes the character's journey and his dealing with all sorts of challenges. I have to agree with Liana, though, that the feeling I got from this story was indeed different to the previous, also because of the setting, distinctly non-English and less mystical. Apollonius also faces a different type of lost status or honour than the knights, even though the way his downfall started can be seen as similar to Sir Colgrevance or Perceval's father - taking on a challenge with unfair odds.
In reply to Jáchym Hájek

Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Helena Znojemská -
I like your remark on Apollonius as the perfect knightly hero. I'd like to return to that in the online session.
In reply to First post

Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Kateřina Mudrová -

There are without adoubt some shared characteristics between Apolonius and the Arthurian texts. The character types are essentially quite similar, the main hero, although not a knight is a man of noble origin with extraordinary skill and talents, the main female characters are praised for their beauty, virtue and refined manners, there is the good king (who is helped by the main hero and who subs. offers him the hand of his daughter) as opposed to purely evil irredeemable villain who takes advantage of a young women. The plot itself might be loosely compared to Ywain and Gawain, the main hero wins the woman oof his heart, yet thanks to unfavourable circumstances looses her temporarily, goes through a period of madness (grief in this case) and the story ends by a happy reconciliation. As Liana has noted, similar virtues are promoted in the Arthurian texts as in Apolonius, this is of course achieved largely by altering the classical Greek environment to fit the standards to fit the Christian medieval one (e.g. the vague Christianisation of the characters). I also agree that the core difference between the two “genres” is the amount of direct agency of the main hero, while the Arthurian characters do directly seek out action, Apolonius keeps the Greek theme of the main hero being swept by events beyond his control. The second biggest difference is the nature of confrontation between the main hero and his adversaries; Apolonius never chooses the “knightly” combat, he defeats his enemies by his intelligence (a book-learned knowledge is never sth. Promoted in the Arthurian tales) as well as a great deal of luck. This difference is probably best shown by the fact that Apolonius chooses to flee from king Antiochus, which would be entirely unacceptable in the Arthurian environment.

As Danila has mentioned, the relative unfairness of the equal punishment being inflicted upon Stranguillio also caught my attention, yet I can imagine that the reasoning behind it was simply based on the fact that the person who doesn’t choose to oppose evil essentially supports it, i.e. his failure was that he could neither control and punish his wicked wife (which a medieval reader would probably consider necessary) or protect Tharsia in the first place (as he has promised). Also he tried to conceal the truth. I was also a but surprised by the fact that the opening episode with the poor girl raped by Antiochus was never solved (i.e. Apolonius knew what was going on yet did not try to intervene).

 

 
In reply to Kateřina Mudrová

Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Zuzana Šindlerová -
These were my thoughts exactly. I felt unsatisfied with the unresolved issue of the lady being raped by her own father. Not only was this sheer unfairness towards the poor daughter, the ignoble actions of the cruel king went unpunished and never mentioned again.
Appolonius moved on to other actions. I found it a bit disturbing that he never took any steps to right the wrongs, I do not consider that a chivalric behaviour, simply running away because his life was in danger.
It also seems a bit odd to the modern reader that he asks an entire city to conceal his identity in order to save his life. Not only it is quite an unlikely and unbelievable turn of the events, it is also strange that he has to move on to a different hiding place, once the city builds a statue for him.
In reply to Zuzana Šindlerová

Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Helena Znojemská -
It's worse. They were punished, but the punishment swept the poor girl with her father (a lightning struck them when they were in bed). The whole presentation of Antiochus' incestuous relationship is distinctly odd, because the girl is persuaded to comply with her father's will - so one kind of imperative (obey and respect your parents) overrules another one (much more serious, probably, but who knows). I wonder what the total moral might have been for the period audience. We'll meet a somewhat comparable opposition or dilemma in the hagiographic texts.
In reply to Kateřina Mudrová

Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Helena Znojemská -
Nothing much of import on my part, I generally agree with your observations - just to exonerate Apollonius: the riddle informed him of the incest, not of the rape. It's curious, isn't it? the contrast between Antiochus, who forces himself on his daughter, and Archistrates, who absolutely respects and follows his daughter's wishes concerning her marriage (although, who knows how he would react had he not liked Apollonius in the first place? we are here back to Danila's observation on how the circumstances neatly fit the plot, not the other way round). In that configuration, and with that kind of liberty shown to daughters, how should Apollonius know Antiochus' daughter wasn't willing?
As for the Christianisation, that's a bit of a problem, because the Latin original - and the OE translation, where it can be compared - maintains a kind of strange compromise. It talks of gods of the Greek pantheon without openly condemning them or putting them in "proper place" by any kind of "interpretatio Christiana" - Apollonius looks like Apollo, [there is a feast of Neptune in Mytilene,] Apollonius' wife is the priestess of Diana in Ephesus PLUS all the main characters accept and subscribe to that (in her splendour, Apollonius mistakes his wife for Diana). Yet all of them also refer to and invoke one God, whoever that may be. A bit like in Beowulf, but not quite, because Beowulf scrupulously avoids any openly pagan references - and that's not the case in Apollonius. In Chaucer's and Gower's time this wouldn't raise an eyebrow, but this is much earlier. In the Latin, this is still kind of okay, but in the Old English it's really exceptional.
Concerning Stranguilio - if you wish, we may return to it in the online session.
In reply to First post

Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Valeriia Kliuieva -
I cannot but agree with the previous comments. For me, this story resembles the Arthurian romances in many ways. The most simple, and perhaps, primitive resemblence is a number of motives or plot twisters one finds in the fairy-tales of all kinds (here, for example, the Charles Perrault´s tale, and then even some Slavic ones). The emphasis on the honour, as has already been mentioned, is also quite strong, as well as in the Arthurian romances, but also, e.g., keeping a promise is of a high importance (a promise to the fisherman, e.g.). Apollonius, at some point even compared to Apollo, is as a protagonist of a romance the strongest, the smartest, the best in every single situation, he plays lire better than the daughter of the king even though he has not touched it for a while due to him being shipwrecked.
Maybe, one thing that distinguished this story to the previous ones we analysed: the protagonist and the "good" characters don´t lie (even for a good reason), which is quite the opposite to the romance, where everybody lies, or at least, some of the "good" or "positive" characters (Lunet lied to her mistress in order to make her not to be angry at Ywain and in other cases; the servant that saved Ywain with the potion who used all of it and lied to her mistress; Ywain who says he won´t let his lion to fight for him and then only with the help of his lion whom he never concernes to taime wins his battles; Gawain who lies about his belt etc).
In reply to First post

Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Dominika Kecsöová -
The greatest similarity between “Apollonius” and the previous knightly romances for me is once again the importance of social status and the moral debts that tie the society together: Apollonius is deeply concerned with gaining/losing the rightful social status (every time Apollonius loses his social standing, he manages to gain it back tenfold, and the same thing happens with his daughter etc.). Just like knights, the characters in “Apollonius” are, by virtue of their nobility, exceptional: the noble characters are always perceived as noble, even if they are struck by poverty or in mourning.

As Kateřina mentioned, the OE version is more Christian (leaving out for example some of the more obviously pagan rites), even though it still maintains the veneer of the exotic through setting. Unlike “Apollonius”, “Floris and Blancheflour” is more purely a story of romantic love; despite sharing some plot points, since the motivations of characters were so different, it did not seem particularly connected to “Apollonius”. “Floris and Blancheflour” was also much less knightly – Floris set on his quest to get back Blancheflour, and after he succeeded, he felt no need for more adventures.
In reply to Dominika Kecsöová

Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Helena Znojemská -
Good point about the inherent nobility shining through - indeed we find that in most romances (though what the inherent nobility may consist in and be manifested by differs).
I'd disagree with your comparison with F&B; Apollonius, too, felt no need for further adventures, he simply went to claim his possessions (which is not the same, however it may have turned out.) The greatest difference between A. and F&B is that the latter doesn't have the double climax structure. So the happy end in F&B corresponds to the FINAL happy end in A.
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Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Adéla Zeimannová -
In terms of thematic similarities, I would say that it is very close with the previous texts. It seems like a mixture of genres with some features of romance, heroic epic, and hagiography. We get the unjustly exiled king who has to regain his kingdom and honor, number of adventures and tribulations that he has to go through, rescue his lady, similar character types and settings (royal court, king, hero, lady, etc.) As everyone else pointed out the main themes are honor, truth, knowledge but also father-daughter relationships it seems.
As others have also pointed out, in comparison with the Arthurian texts, knowledge seems to be emphasized instead of just strength and power. Apollonius is not described as a powerful warrior, never fights a battle, there is no battle present in fact. Also, while Apollonius is the hero, he does not seem to adhere to any strict code of conduct, like Ywain or Perceval. He behaves like a noble man, he is truthful and loyal, however, the romance-like strong insistence on chivalry is somehow missing (no proclamations of “I am a king I have to save this person and do this because that is what I promised” etc.)
To me, the slight difference between the Latin and English versions were also interesting. Some of the distinctly heroic epic motifs like the hero’s strength and endurance are emphasized in the English one (swims to the shore unassisted vs in Latin, swims with the help of a plank). The English version also seems to substitute the mythological themes with Christianity, besides Dianna (e.g. Apollo vs. the heathen God). The English translator makes other similar alterations to cater to his audience and to represent Christian values and keep decorum (the bath/gymnasium scene).
In reply to Adéla Zeimannová

Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Helena Znojemská -
I agree with your observations on the differences between Latin/OE. But some of that may be due simply to the fact that the Anglo-Saxon translator just couldn't make sense of what the original was about (gymnasium??? what the heck is that? one man massaging another??? Like... really??? - just note that that the translator skipped all the references to comedy and tragedy that Apollonius performed at Archistrates' court).
In reply to First post

Re: Apollonius of Tyre

by Hana Hájková -
I agree with the previous comments.
This story, Apollonius, focuses mainly on logic, love, and honor. It's not so much about battles, fights, and physical power. A nice twist is there, of course, and a big happy ending.
Apollonius is a king...just like in the previous stories....but this time the story focuses on nobility, knowledge...not so much about king the warrior. However, he has to somehow fight for his kingdom, honor, and love as well.
The presentation of women is very similar to the previous ones. Highlighting their beauty and talking about falling in love very quickly-- based on the honorable behavior of the male characters.
Apollonius is definitely more likable than Perceval but he shares some similarities with him-- self confidence and straightforwardness for example.