Andronike, The Heroine of the Greek Revolution (1897) was first written in Greek in 1861 by author and journalist Stephanos Theodoros Xenos and was his most popular novel in Greece (Kafkalidis 2). Xenos (1821-1894) was a journalist, entrepreneur, and one of the first Greek authors of historical novels. Son to Theodoros Xenos, whom the new independent Greek state appointed consul to Smyrna, Stephanos lived in London from 1847 to 1877. A leading figure in several London-based philhellenic associations, he was actively engaged in the life of the Greek community of London, published the weekly illustrated journal Ο Βρετανικός Αστήρ [The British Star], and vocally opposed King Otto. Andronike was translated by Edwin Augustus Grosvenor into English (1897) and, as Efterpi Mitsi and Anna Despotopoulou argue, this was “the year of the Greco-Turkish war, so its subject was topical, relating the contemporary military confrontation with the earlier War of Independence” (8). Such publication circumstances, combined with the fact that Xenos is recognised as a prominent cultural intermediary, perhaps suggest that the English translation of the novel might be examined as part of the Victorian popular culture.
The novel was divided into five books exceeding 500 pages, offering the love story of Andronike and Thrasyboulos in the background of the Greek war for independence; the narrative roughly spans the duration of the 1821 Greek Revolution, beginning in the Arcadian setting of 1819 Demetzana, where Andronike and Thrasyboulos meet, and ending in 1833, when Andronike dies in a Moscow monastery. Sophia Denissi has already explored the affiliation of Andronike to the work of Walter Scott (205). Within the context of abundant historical references, the Filike Hetairia (or Philiki Etairia, Society of Friends) practically kickstarts the novel with a call to arms: Andronike Athanasiades, the daughter of a demogeront, is a member of the Hetairia and will introduce her beloved Thrasyboulos, the Patriarch’s nephew, to it. In the chapter titled “The Oath and the Betrothal” Andronike informs Thrasyboulos about the Philiki Hetairia in a narrative gesture that seems to associate Thrasyboulos’s commitment to Andronike with his future commitment to the Hetairia:
After the frightful death of Rhegas, the Philomousos Hetairia was founded at Vienna. At its head was Yannis Capodistrias. Its design was to diffuse education among the enslaved Greeks, and by this means gradually to prepare them for freedom. The Philike Hetairia is a consequence. Six years ago three immortal men, Scouphas, Tsacaloff, and Anagnostopoulos, conceived the daring and desperate idea of preparing every Greek for freedom, not by letters but by arms; in other words, to rouse from their lethargy the inhabitants of enslaved Greece. After incredible sacrifices and labor, after being at first mocked at as fools on account of their great undertaking, these three indomitable men succeeded in their design; that is, they founded a Hetairia, divided into seven grades, and having symbols, passwords, oaths, and a cypher like the freemasons. The richest and most capable men of our nation, who are to direct our holy struggle, are connected with it. There is not a city nor a village, Thrasyboulos, which the Hetairia has not reached. (32)
Andronike seems to be offering here the general background of the Philike Hetairia both to Thrasyboulos and the readers of the novel. The omission of the name of Emmanuel Xanthos from the Hetairia’s founding pantheon is rather intriguing; in Xenos’s novel, Xanthos, one of the more radical members of the Hetairia is replaced by Panagiotis Anagnostopoulos, who according to historians, may have also been a founding member. The text—composed with the hindsight of the successful Greek liberation struggle—explicitly embraces the idea of armed struggle against the Ottomans, while the secret codes and dialect of the Hetairia (3), and its affiliations with freemasonry are duly noted. As Eric Hobsbawm notes, this type of revolutionary organization, “the secret insurrectionary brotherhood” with their “highly-coloured ritual and hierarchy derived or copied from masonic models, sprang up towards the end of the Napoleonic period” (115). Hobsbawm reads the influence of carbonarist secret societies spreading across the Mediterranean world after 1815 and especially in Greece (115).
In this context, both the writing of the novel and its subsequent translation are certainly attuned to the nationalisms of the second half of the nineteenth century, while the acknowledgement of the role of the Hetairia in the Greek struggle ties in with the historical aspirations of the work. The fact that Andronike is presented as a member of the organization can easily be read as a tribute to the women fighters of 1821. Andronike—along with Diamanto, Kyra R, Mando Mavrogenous, and Laskarina Bouboulina who all parade the novel—embody different aspects of the notion of the “lady pallikari” (Xenos 203). Even the name Andronike is a compound of andreia and nike (manliness/bravery and victory). Bound by the tradition and imperatives of the historical novel, Andronike details the historical facts surrounding the Greek cause and praises the heroic actions of the characters, leaving little room for the romantic aspects of the story.
Denissi, Sophia. The Greek Historical Novel and Sir Walter Scott 1830-1880. Athens: Kastaniotis, 1994.
[In Greek: Ντενίση, Σοφία.Το ελληνικό ιστορικό μυθιστόρημα και ο Sir Walter Scott 1830-1880, Αθήνα: Εκδόσεις Καστανιώτη, 1994].
Hobsbawm, Eric. The Age of Revolution 1789-1848. London: Vintage Books, 1996.
Kafkalidis, Zéphyros. « Stéphanos Xénos (1821-1894) », Cahiers balkaniques [En ligne], 43 (2015): 1-10. http://journals.openedition.org/ceb/8674.
Mitsi, Efterpi & Despotopoulou, Anna. “Revolutionary Greece in Victorian Popular Literature”. Literature Compass, e12679, (2022): 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1111/lic3.12679.
Xenos, Stephanos Theodorou. Andronike, The Heroine of the Greek Revolution. Trans. Edwin A. Grosvenor. Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1899.
Dodwell, Edward. 1819. Lake of Stymphalos in Arcadia.
Source: From Edward Dodwell. A Classical and Topographical Tour through Greece, during the Years 1801, 1805, and 1806, vol. ΙΙ, London, Rodwell and Martin, 1819. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.