Page 298 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 298

 The iliad in the Mirror of the Kosovo Cycle Poems
Milan Budisavljević
The proven similarity between our Kosovo cycle po- ems and Homer’s Iliad not only provides clear an- swers to certain questions raised by the Iliad, but also
prompts us to explain it.
Many similarities certainly stem from the primitive
world-view, understandably quite common to many peo- ples at the time when epic poetry flourished, and also from the matching subject matter of the two epopees. Others, however, require different explanations, which will shed new light on many aspects of the Iliad as a whole.
1. We have seen that the very beginning of the Iliad, the quarrel between achilles and agamemnon, resembles the beginnings of our most ancient folk songs and legends, which seek—in a very small way, of course—to present a complete picture of the Kosovo event, namely the quar- rel between Miloš and Vuk. Delving further, it may be said that even some of the poems dealing with certain differ- ent details imply the same event as marking the begin- ning of the battle of Kosovo. The Iliad tells us that apol- lo’s priest Chryses comes to ransom his daughter Chrys- eis, that agamemnon releases her eventually but abducts “the fair-faced” Briseis from achilles, who has a quarrel with agamemnon over this and refuses his aid to the achaean army. in our poems, Vukosava (Miloš’s wife) and Mara (Vuk’s wife) quarrel over the gentlemanly and he- roic qualities of their respective husbands. Mara slaps Vukosava on the cheek; Vukosava repairs to “green gar- dens”; Miloš finds her there and, consoling her, learns why she is crying. He gets hold of Vuk, throws him on the ground and beats him until emperor Lazar breaks the fight, barely able to appease Miloš after “pleading full-heart- ily” (Hilferding).
While the events themselves bear little resemblance to each other, the motive of both quarrels is the same: a woman. in the Iliad, Briseis is the cause of the protago- nists’ quarrel and of achilles’ rage, which in turn led to the suffering of the entire army and the death of Patrocles, achilles’ best friend. in our épopée, it is again the wom- an who provoke the quarrel; they are the cause of the quar- rel between Lazar’s two best knights, of Miloš’s rage, which in turn led to his departure for the Turkish camp (thus
Bust of Homer of the Epimedes type, Vatican Museum
weakening Lazar’s army) and the death of his bosom friends ivan and Milan. Briefly, the quarrel between achil- les and agamemnon over females was the cause of great sufferings for the achaeans, while the quarrel between Miloš and the Branković, also over women, spelled the ruin of the Serbian empire. another case of women caus- ing great perturbations is to be found elsewhere in the Iliad and our epic poetry.
The Trojan War breaks out over Helen being abducted by Paris, wherefore the brothers agamemnon and Mene- laus attack Troy. Outside Troy, Paris and Menelaus fight a duel, in which Menelaus nearly succeeds in killing the abductor of his wife Helen. in our folk poem (Karadžić), Banović Strahinja is (like Menelaus in the Greek story) absent from home for some time and the mighty Vlah ali takes advantage of his absence to abduct his wife and in- stall her in his tent at Kosovo. Strahinja finds him there and wreaks terrible revenge on him in a bloody duel.
We know of yet another Greek story along the same lines, wherein Helen is abducted by Theseus and set free by her brothers, the Dioscorides Castor and Pollux. a sim- ilar motif is to be found in some of our folk tales (Kara- džić). The question that arises here is how to account for the similarity of such crucial motifs in the épopées of the two nations.
2. The strongest reason for this is that the woman is a common motif in the poetry of all indo-european nations. it would certainly be better and more advisable, therefore, to take this thematic similarity between Greek poetry and ours as a legacy from the earliest times of our communal life. Those motifs, like many others, are but a reflection of that communal poetry which some nations have pre- served since earliest times. The spirit of the poem, indi- vidual motifs, even entire situations live together with the national spirit; it is only the outer color that changes, de- pending on the relative importance of this or that partic- ular event to the spirit of a given nation.

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